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Vetting process has begun to hire a new public works director and assistant city manager

The city of Newberg's effort to replace two key staff members is coming to a close, and candidates could be offered positions by the end of the month, City Manager Dan Weinheimer said last week.Weinheimer

For a number of months, the city has been without public works and human resource directors. That gap in leadership came about when longtime public works director Jay Harris left the employ of the city in May to take a similar job near his ancestral home in southwest Washington.

The former human resources director, Anna Lee, reached a mutual separation agreement with the city in January after being put on administrative leave for several months.

After Lee's departure, the city took the opportunity to alter her former position to more of an assistant city manager post, a hybrid of sorts that would still include human resources duties.

"The elevation of human resources from a director to serve as assistant city manager was done to reflect the importance of addressing internal culture," Weinheimer said in an email interview. "Having an assistant city manager will help me personally in balancing my workload, and the selected person will keep focused attention on improving the hiring, supervision and development of city staff. … I think that having someone skilled in personnel development is needed at this time in Newberg."

A rash of internal discord between individuals and departments has stricken the city over the past five years, with Lee oftentimes at the center of the controversies. It factored into the Newberg City Council's hiring of Weinheimer, believing he was best suited to address the city's dysfunction.

"It has been made abundantly clear to me through my hiring process and first six months on the job that the City Council and community members expect that the city will transform many areas, and all of those point back to the people who are hired to do the work," he said. "It is a focus of mine to improve internal culture, and I believe that elevating human resources will help do so."

The application process for the two spots ended in August and the recruiting firm handling the search, Novak Consulting Group, was hired with an option to also conduct the search for a new police chief after the retirement of Chief Brian Casey in the spring.

Heather Gantz, instrumental in the search for a new city manager, came out on top via a request for proposal process due to her experience in the Northwest "and the evaluation that COVID-19 would likely limit the pool to those already working within the region," Weinheimer said.

He added that initial recommendation for the assistant city manager job will come this week and by late September the city will see recommendations for the public works director.

"(Gantz) will have already conducted a screening interview for all candidates by the time I get her recommendations," Weinheimer said, adding it is likely the pool will range from eight to 10 individuals for each position.

If the remainder of the process goes smoothly, he added, "I hope we can make an offer to an (assistant manager) candidate by the end of this month. Probably an offer could be extended early or mid-October for the public works director."

As the human resources director position will add on the responsibilities of an assistant city manager as well as internal services, the salary will increase as well.

"The increase was estimated in our budget as about $25,000 above the human resources director and may be less depending on when the selected individual starts," Weinheimer said. "The general fund will absorb 50% of the difference in salaries, with the remainder of funding coming from other funds."

Ultimately, Weinheimer will decide who will assume the positions of public works director and assistant city manager, although "I intend to include some city staff in the evaluation process."

"The council has given me feedback on the type of organization that they would like to see, has supported me in evaluating the city's needs, and approval to take steps to improve the organization," he said.

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