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Kezia Wanner will also assume the responsibilities of human resources director

The city of Newberg continued its rebuilding effort last week with the announcement that it has hired an assistant city manager.

Kezia Wanner will assume the post on Oct. 26 and will also assume the responsibilities of the city's human resources director. In that position she will replace Anna Lee, who reached a $150,000 mutual separation agreement in January with the city's insurance carrier after she became a lightning rod for controversy among many of her peers. Lee was on administrative leave for several months prior to reaching the agreement with the city.COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF NEWBERG - Kezia Wanner will assume the post of assistant city manager on Oct. 26 after a monthslong search.

Alison Seiler, a former part-time employee of the city, acted as interim human resources director for more than six months while the firm hired by the city, Novak Consulting Group, searched for a permanent candidate. More than 125 individuals from 29 states applied for the job before the listing was closed in August.

"The assistant city manager will serve a vital leadership role in the organization and actively support the city manager's efforts to implement the City Council's goals and policies," a release from the city said. "This newly created position will initially focus on human resources with an evolving portfolio based on the needs of the city and in collaboration with the city manager."

Wanner is not new to government service. Her last post was as deputy director overseeing agency support services at the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. She also managed financial, administrative and operational programs for the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, served seven years at the Portland Budget Office, worked a stint in Placentia, California, developing a historic tax preservation tax abatement program and was the community liaison working on historic district designation, public arts projects and formation of an urban renewal area in Woodburn.

"I am excited to have Kezia join our team," Newberg City Manager Dan Weinheimer said in the release. "Her extensive experience makes her capable for helping the city organization improve in a number of areas. She will immediately focus internally on organizational culture and serve as an asset in supporting implementation of community and council goals."

Wanner's hiring marks a return to Newberg featuring an assistant city manager, a post that was eliminated upon the hiring of former city manager Jacque Betz in 2014. Betz's actions in the top post led to many of the issues the city is experiencing to this day, including trying to fire longtime police chief Brian Casey and hiring Lee as human resources director. Betz relinquished the position after less than a year at the behest of the City Council.

A hybrid city position

After Anna Lee's departure, the city took the opportunity to alter the 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 September. "Having an assistant city manager will help me personally in balancing my workload, and (Wanner) 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 struck 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."

Salary comes from multiple sources

Since 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."

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