Meet Gresham's city manager finalists
For the second time in the past year, the city of Gresham has narrowed the search for a permanent City Manager to three finalists.
Jamal Fox, Patrick Quinton and Nina Vetter all participated in a virtual forum Wednesday evening, April 21, to introduce themselves to the community they wish to serve while answering questions from Mayor Travis Stovall.
All three vying for the top spot in City Hall have already participated in individual interviews with the city's executive recruiter and semi-finalist interviews with councilors. Community feedback from the forum will help Gresham leaders make their final decision.
It has been a bumpy road to get to this point.
Everything began last summer when longtime manager Erik Kvarsten unexpectedly retired. City leaders scrambled to find a replacement, naming Eric Schmidt as the first interim manager. Three candidates were initially named and publicly interviewed, but all three failed to make the cut. Stephen Rymer accepted a different position, Ann Ober dropped out — and city leaders decided not to move forward with Bryan Montgomery.
As Gresham limped back to square one, restarting a national search, David Clyne was hired as the second interim manager because Schmidt was only allowed to serve six months in the pro tem role.
The Gresham City Council is reviewing community feedback as it makes its final decision in the coming days.
Fox has served as city administrator of Camas, Washington, since 2020. He began his public sector leadership career in 2013 when he was elected as a state representative in North Carolina. He has also worked for the city of Portland as a property and business development manager and deputy chief of staff in the Portland Mayor's Office.
"I was raised on values of service, coming from a military family," Fox said. "(Being City Manager) is about the community — working for each and every one of you."
During his time working for the city of Portland, Fox lived near the Gresham border and got to know several community leaders and staffers. He said if chosen, his main goal will be working in concert with councilors to enact their policies.
"The mentality of 'One City, One Gresham' really resonates with me," Fox said, adding he is excited about the future opportunities around economic development and recreation. "Gresham has this grit and spirit of fight internally and externally. Regardless of the issues I have seen, the staff and community always seem to come together and support one another."
During his time in Camas a big focus has been on connecting with the community, and Fox highlighted the importance of working with the Neighborhood Associations and using town hall gatherings to help inform the community and include their ideas.
Fox spoke about working with city leadership to implement diversity, equity and inclusion measures.
"Equity is inside-out; you have to involve the community," he said. "We have to give people a voice and seat at the table."
For Gresham's budget issues he would reevaluate the city's spending habits, utilize refinancing, keep everything transparent and explore participatory budgeting.
"Transparency, transparency, transparency," he said in regards to the budget.
Quinton has been the CEO and co-founder of Dweller Inc., a housing development company that focuses on accessory dwelling units, since 2017. He began a consulting and start-up career in 1990, first with ShoreBank Corporation and then with Textron Financial Corporation's health care finance division. From 2008 to 2016 he has served with Prosper Portland.
"This is an opportunity to have an impact on a region my wife and I consider our home," Quinton said. "I see the city manager helping take a (visions) for (a) city and make them a reality alongside talented staff."
He is passionate about housing and using creative ways to increase the availability, and has experience reducing budgets while with Prosper Portland.
Quinton also is familiar with what has been happening in Gresham, working collaboratively with the city in the past. He sees this as an exciting time for the city, with new elected officials bringing different ideas.
"We are an increasingly diverse region and country, and Gresham has been that way a long time," Quinton said. "We can make an inclusive and equitable community. Set a model for the rest of the region.
He said it all starts with authentic actions and real change, and that the city can't ignore the history and build on mistakes made in the past.
"It starts with leadership from the mayor, council and city manager," he said.
Quinton also said traditional ways of engagement — time of day, location, format — doesn't work for all in the community. He would use online forums, different meeting times, intercept surveys at Max stops, and more. Quinton added he would work with community groups as well.
"There have been ups and downs in recent months, which can be unsettling," Quinton said. "These are just bumps in the road for a city with great things coming."
Vetter has served as the chief administrative officer/district manager of the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, Colorado, since 2019. Her career in government began in 2013 when she was hired by the city of Colorado Springs as a senior budget management analyst. She progressed to the role of strategy, performance and contract compliance manager.
She said building and maintaining relationships with elected officials, staff and community are important to success of city manager and the entire organization.
"My passion is to be in public service — I discovered that early in my career," Vetter said. "The city manager has to be comfortable having difficult conversations with the community and be able to listen."
She highlighted being drawn to Gresham because of the culturally diverse neighborhoods, strong Neighborhood Associations and engaged community members. She said she also looks forward to furthering diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
"(The) city manager is ultimately held accountable for what happens within the organization," Vetter said, adding the first few months she would spend getting to know the city and where there is room for improvements.
Vetter said the city has to be deliberate with community engagement and remain transparent in decision-making. With diversity, equity and inclusivity she would start internally within City Hall.
"Inclusion is being valued, supported and respected for who you are," she said. "It is a constant journey — you can't just check a box."
She said the city has to set goals and expectations, add start everything with improved training. That includes conflict management, unconscious bias, and other tools staff can utilize. Vetter also encourages employees to seek different perspectives on projects.
Vetter is excited to take on the financial issues in Gresham. Some of her ideas including leaning on a multi-year plan, collaboration and identifying new revenue ideas that are not taxes.
"This is a great opportunity — Gresham seems like a fabulous community," she said.
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