Jenny Haruyama brings history of public service to Beaverton
There is "a lot of public service in my genes," says Jenny Haruyama.
Haruyama will assume a brand-new role at Beaverton City Hall in August. She was hired this week as the city's first permanent city manager under a new charter that voters approved last year.
But while it's a new job for Beaverton, it's old hat to Haruyama. Beaverton will be the third city for which she has been a professional manager. She is currently city manager of Tracy, California, a post she will leave in order to relocate to Beaverton and take on the full-time position of city manager.
Previously, Haruyama served as city manager of Scotts Valley, California, and before that as assistant city manager of Livermore, California. Those stations marked an interlude in between stints in Tracy, where she served as administrative services director from 2012 to 2014, then briefly as interim assistant city manager, before working in Livermore from 2014 to 2016, and Scotts Valley until she was hired back in Tracy in 2019.
"I've had a lot of experience in more challenging environments, in transitioning councils, in getting councils where they need to be to focus on the council-manager system," Haruyama told The Times.
In Tracy, before Haruyama came back as city manager, the conduct of some members of the Tracy City Council was so improper that a civil grand jury was empaneled to investigate. In June 2019, as reported by the Tracy Press, the grand jury concluded that councilors repeatedly interfered with Tracy's "business operations," demonstrating "open disregard" for what was supposed to be a dividing line between the elected council and professional city employees under Tracy's own council-manager system.
A majority bloc on the council also worked together to oust top city employees, including the city manager and police chief, according to the report.
"There were a lot of issues around not following the council-manager form of government," Haruyama said, adding, "I came in really to help facilitate that process for them of helping them get back on track."
From 1980 to 2020, Beaverton operated under what is called a "strong mayor" form of government. In a "strong mayor" system, the mayor, who is directly elected by voters every four years, has a leading role in setting the city's agenda while also directly supervising city employees.
While "strong mayor" systems are not unusual in many states, in Oregon, Beaverton was virtually unique. Neighboring Hillsboro, Tigard, Lake Oswego, and other cities outside Portland have been governed by a council-manager form of government for years. Under such a system, voters elect the city council and mayor, and the council and mayor are responsible for hiring and providing direction to a professional administrator, like Haruyama. The city administrator, or city manager, oversees department heads and usually has the power to hire or fire employees.
In Tracy, Haruyama said part of the solution involved formulating a code of conduct for Tracy's city councilors and mayor, laying out what they could and could not do, how they should treat one another, and how — or whether — they should engage with city staff. In a city where the boundaries that should exist within a council-manager government had been blurred, Haruyama said, she saw herself as a necessary "buffer" between Tracy's elected officials and its employees.
The situation is different in Beaverton, of course. While Tracy suffered from a situation in which members of the City Council disregarded how its form of government ought to work, Beaverton is adjusting to having a new form of government altogether.
Mayor Lacey Beaty said she anticipates a "year-long learning curve" for Beaverton as both residents and city officials learn more about how their government works.
"I think it's important for the community to know who is the right person to call for what issue," Beaty said.
There is a major difference between being a mayor like Denny Doyle, whom Beaty defeated in last year's election, and whose three terms as Beaverton's mayor all came under the old "strong mayor" system; and being a manager like Haruyama. A mayor has to run for re-election, whereas a manager answers only to the City Council, not the electorate, as Beaty noted.
Beaty said one of the reasons the Beaverton City Council chose Haruyama for the job is because Beaverton needs what she described as a "change manager," someone who has experience with transitions and governance issues.
Asked what obstacles or challenges she expects to encounter as she takes the reins in Beaverton, Haruyama demurred.
"I really see (challenges) as opportunities," Haruyama said, and she added: "For me, there's just so many opportunities."
Haruyama mentioned the ongoing redevelopment of Central Beaverton, particularly the downtown area, which has seen an influx of new restaurants and housing developments, along with the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts under construction just down the street from City Hall.
Haruyama is also excited by Beaverton's focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Nearly two in five Beaverton residents identify as Hispanic or Latino and/or as a race other than white. About one in five Beavertonians were born in another country.
For her, Haruyama said, diversity, equity and inclusion are personal issues.
"Three of my kids identify as LGBTQ. They're biracial. And that's a passion for me to make sure they're included and represented," she said.
Haruyama's husband is in the military, and Haruyama — who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and works less than an hour's drive from her hometown of Milpitas, California — said her own family has a 300-year history in public service. Her relatives include elected officials, police chiefs, administrators and more, she told The Times.
This will be Haruyama's first job in Oregon. She said she already feels welcomed, though, noting that about half a dozen administrators in cities near Beaverton have already reached out to her.
"It's pretty exciting," Haruyama said of being selected as Beaverton's first city manager.
By Mark Miller
Editor-in-Chief, Washington and Columbia counties
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