City planning to fill major positions, address protestors' concerns
One of Newberg City Manager Dan Weinheimer's focuses when he took the job was changing the culture of an organization rife with controversy. From the issues surrounding former human resources director Anna Lee, to the Gregg Patton racism lawsuit, to spats between city employees and the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, Weinheimer came on board in Newberg with plenty of issues to address.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting virtually everything at the city on a freeze of sorts and creating yet another significant challenge for Weinheimer and those serving Newberg alongside him. It's been an eventful beginning to his tenure, to say the least.
"It's only been a few months, but coronavirus makes it feel like a few years," he said. "I'm still trying to learn about where we are as an organization, what our strengths are, what opportunities we have to grow in the coming years. Because of physical distancing and telework, I haven't had the opportunity to physically meet with department heads on a regular basis or dive into the operations."
Despite the pandemic, Weinheimer and company have hired a national consulting firm — Cincinnati-based Novak Consulting Group — to help them with the hiring process for three major positions: human resources director, public works director and police chief.
Major changes are coming to the HR director position, Weinheimer said, including its official title.
"The HR director position is being reclassified to an assistant city manager who will have the primary responsibility for HR," he said. "The reason for that is to focus on the council's priority to change the operational culture and focus on customer service. That has some correlation to the legal issues the city has had in the last two years, and there's been an emphasis on raising the profile of human resources and city culture in general."
Initially, Novak Consulting will have a dual focus for the city on narrowing a list of candidates for that assistant city manager (HR) spot, along with the public works director position vacated in April by Jay Harris. After those two positions are filled, the city will instruct Novak to begin a national search for a full-time police chief after Brian Casey's retirement. Capt. Jeff Kosmicki is currently filling the chief role on an interim basis.
"We hired Novak to help us find a replacement for the HR director and public works director, with the option to launch a search for the police chief when we give them the go-ahead," Weinheimer said. "Knowing that taking on all three positions would be a lot for them, we focused on the first two.
"The police chief tends to be a more public facing position than the other two might be. We're trying to think about how to include public feedback in a process like that."
In recent weeks, there has been plenty of public feedback on policing, whether it took the form of protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement or simply calls and emails to the city itself. Weinheimer said the city has spoken internally about how to properly address protestors' and other citizens' concerns, and that he and other city officials have been doing a lot of "listening without judgment" to Newberg residents' experiences with law enforcement, racism and other behaviors being called out by national and local protests.
Weinheimer said he expected a more detailed discussion among city officials at the June 15 council meeting regarding issues of race and policing. National ideas for reform would be discussed, he said, with some actions possibly implemented to address residents' concerns.
"We haven't had an in-depth discussion on these issues yet, but we've received emails, letters and phone calls from residents about it," Weinheimer said. "We anticipate an in-depth discussion about that at Monday's council meeting. We want to develop an operational culture that adopts and cherishes diversity, equity and inclusion as core values, and out of that should come more in-depth actions and goals."
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