City chooses familiar face to serve as public works director
The city of Newberg has a new public works director and the individual chosen is familiar to residents and those in city government: Russ Thomas.
Thomas was selected last week to replace Jay Harris, who left the city in April to take a similar position in Washington. Thomas will begin his duties immediately, according to a press release from the city.
Thomas emerged as the top candidate among 28 applicants during a national search undertaken by the search agency hired by the city, Novak Consulting Group, over the past several months. He joins new Assistant City Manager Kezia Wanner among the new faces added to city staff over the past month. The search for the third key department head the city must fill, police chief, will start in earnest now that Thomas and Wanner are in place, City Manager Dan Weinheimer previously said.
"Russ stood out among other applicants for his knowledge of Newberg, focus on customer service, adaptability and dedication to serving our community," Weinheimer said. "He's a respected leader and has great ideas about how we can continue to improve public works service delivery to residents."
Thomas is a 41-year veteran of serving the city, starting his career as a laborer and working his way up through the ranks as a crew chief, superintendent in the maintenance division, plant manager and supervisor in the operations division of the department. He has served as the city's public works maintenance superintendent since 1997 and filled Harris' position since his April departure.
"He has built a reputation as a reliable, knowledgeable leader who always seeks to do more than expected in each role," the release said.
As he has progressed through the ranks, Thomas has become involved in organizations outside the city, including as director of the Oregon Utility Notification Center and as president of the Oregon Chapter of American Public Works Association, where he was nominated in 2019 for the National Top Leaders of the Year award.
Thomas will be responsible for overseeing the three main components of the public works department, including maintenance, operations and engineering. His extensive operational experience should equip Thomas to handle the job, city officials said.
"I am humbled by the support shown to me by the city staff and the city manager's confidence in selecting me as public works director," Thomas said. "I am excited to be able to continue the work on the solid foundation, programs and forward-looking plans that prior directors have set in motion for the city.
"I look forward to working with the outstanding public works department staff and serving my community and its citizens, as we continue the important work to operate and maintain the city's infrastructure, develop and construct improvements and plan for our future needs and growth to help enhance the city's livability and quality of life."
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