LO announces Martha Bennett will be new city manager
The Lake Oswego City Council announced June 28 that it has chosen Martha Bennett as the next city manager.
Bennett, the former chief operating officer of Metro, replaces the outgoing City Manager Scott Lazenby who retired effective July 1. Bennett will join the City as its chief administrator beginning Aug. 19. In the interim, Megan Phelan will serve as city manager pro tem.
"Lake Oswego is a full-service community with a really strong quality of life and some really passionate residents, so it's an attractive organization for anyone working in local government," Bennett told the Review. "They have really high quality staff working there, so the chance to be part of that is pretty exciting."
Bennett brings more than 25 years of experience including prior posts leading the City of Ashland as city administrator, at the City of Milwaukie as assistant city manager, and serving as executive director of the Columbia River Gorge Commission. She holds a master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor of arts in history and political science from Willamette University.
The selection process was run by professional search consultant Heather Gantz of the firm Waldron. The council received 35 applications which Gantz whittled down to just 10, and Bennett was one of four candidates interviewed by the City Council for the position.
"After a thorough recruitment process that involved multiple community stakeholders and staff, we have selected Martha to be our new city manager," Mayor Kent Studebaker said in a press release. "I am excited to have her on board."
Bennett retired from her position as COO of Metro back in April, at which time Metro President Lynn Peterson credited Bennett's leadership for numerous Metro accomplishments, including passage of the 2018 affordable housing bond, the ongoing construction of the Convention Center Hotel, and construction of Elephant Lands, Condors of the Columbia, and the Education Center at the Oregon Zoo.
According to Bennett, her first 100 days as City Manager will be focused on getting to know the community, the City Council, staff, community leaders and the business community.
"The first thing I need to do is get to know the folks who live in Lake Oswego to hear about what they care about and what they're hoping to see from the City," she said. "That includes staff because they have a lot of great ideas about what's working well and what they want to improve."
Bennett believes that people like Phelan, Deputy City Manager Anthony Hooper, Planning Director Scot Siegel and many others will be crucial figures in helping her get a finger on the pulse of the community and how things work here. From a staff aspect, Bennett raved about the quality of people working within the local government, and said that was a major factor in her wanting the job. She also praised the community's tradition for gathering public input on everything from policy to projects, another aspect of why she was intrigued by the position.
"There's some astonishingly talented people working for the City of Lake Oswego, so I'm excited to partner with them," Bennett said. "Lake Oswego has a really strong tradition of residents being engaged in their government. I'm thrilled about getting to work with people who care passionately about their community."
As Lazenby exits, Bennett will enter her role with several major projects underway or kicking off like the Boones Ferry Road reconstruction project, construction of a new City Hall, North Anchor redevelopment, Tryon Creek Wastewater project and Foothills area redevelopment.
According to Council President Skip O'Neill, Bennett was someone that the council felt was capable of coming in and hitting the ground running.
"We're really excited to have someone with Martha's experience. I'm wishing all the best for her," O'Neill said. "I think we thought that she could (step in) and we wouldn't see any hiccup in the transition between Scott leaving and her coming in."
Lazenby said that while he made an effort to stay out of the hiring process, he's glad to see the council made a good choice in hiring Bennett. The two are professional colleagues who have both served as president of the Oregon City and County Management Association, as well as worked together in previous roles on regional issues.
"I feel the city is in very good hands," Lazenby said. "One of the benefits to hiring Martha is her connections she's built in the region, not only in her work at Metro but at the City of Milwaukie, as well. She will hit the ground running in terms of knowing the major players."
According to City Councilor John LaMotte, the process which the council, senior City staff and a panel of community members took part in was very well run thanks to Gantz and Waldron, and he noted that her professionalism played a huge role in wide net of qualified candidates the council had to choose from.
He also noted that the selection of Bennett as city manager was the consensus pick between the council, staff and community panels that each interviewed the four finalists.
"It is a good feeling, also in that we take this job very seriously," LaMotte said. "The city manager is the CEO of the City, of our municipal corporation, and we did a lot of vetting, discussing, checking, rechecking back and forth, and Martha came to the top of the list. We're looking forward to a new chapter in Lake Oswego."
Bennett said her delayed start date is so that she can find a home in Lake Oswego, move and get her household in order before she takes over on Aug. 19.
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