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The first-term councilor steps away from city's highest body; council will appoint someone to fill out his term

Bryce Coefield has resigned as a member of the Newberg City Council.

"I resigned because my wife and I had our second child and it's a season of life where my family really needs me to be present," he said in an email interview. "Two kids bring such joy, and chaos, and it's really hard!"Coefield

The George Fox University director of intercultural life was appointed by the council to complete Patrick Johnson's four-year term when he resigned as District 4 councilor in August 2020. Coefield was among four finalists and began his term in September of that year after moving from the Los Angeles area to Newberg a few years prior.

He said serving on the council during tumultuous years in city government was a learning experience.

"It's hard to fully know what to expect not having served in a capacity like this before …," he said. "I expected to learn a lot, and did, and expected to be challenged, and I was.

"Oh gosh, I learned a ton. I learned that we have brilliant people working in our city. I learned that things are more complicated than what they seem. But I would say the biggest thing I learned is that it is important to be engaged. There are lots of opportunities to be involved."

Coefield said he felt called to seek appointment to the position two years ago.

"It was actually my community that prompted me," he said. "I believe the best leaders are ones who are called by the community to serve and in 2020 multiple people in my community asked me to consider serving in this way, so I did."

Coefield commented that staying grounded was probably the council's greatest accomplishment during the 18 months he was in office.

"I could point to big and flashy things we've done, but my honest answer is just (remaining) rooted," he said. "My time on council has been filled with multiple pandemics, wildfires, transitions at all levels through the city, and incredibly intense political seasons. Through it all I believe the council has remained rooted and that is an incredible achievement."

He counts city government's inability to adequately address the lack of affordable childcare as something the council couldn't quite get done during his term in office.

"I view very few things as failures, but I believe a huge learning moment for me and the council was the work we did to attempt to address the childcare crisis we're in here in Newberg," he said. "I believe one of the presenters called this a `desert.' It ultimately didn't happen and that hurts my heart to this day."

Coefield joined the council amidst chaos in city government that saw the departure of numerous department heads as well as the hiring of 10 interim and permanent city manager over the course of a decade.

"Ten in ten years is quite a bit of transition," he said. "I can't speak to the past (only lived in Newberg for four and a half years), but leadership is always hard when there's transition and I suspect that's true for Newberg as well. In my experience though on council, I was moved by the level of depth and love of city staff that have been here for years doing great work. I think at times transition at the top takes away from the good work staff does day in and day out."

The city is again searching for a new city manager after Dan Weinheimer resigned in October after 20 months on the job. Librarian Will Worthey was appointed by the council to serve as interim city manager while the recruitment process begins anew. Several councilors endorsed returning Kezia Wanner, the city's former assistant city manager and human resources director, to fill the position instead of mounting a lengthy search.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to all the counselors about Kezia, but I know a lot of people who work for the city really appreciated her leadership while (she was) here," Coefield said. "I've kind of been living under a new baby rock the last couple of months, so I'm not up to date on the intricacies of the hiring process, but I trust the council and their leadership."

Ultimately, Coefield said, the role of the council is fairly straight forward: "Put simply, I believe the role of the council is to provide perspective as citizens and residents who are embedded in community. We have brilliant people working at the city and our job is to help support and guide the good work that is being done."

Would he consider a future volunteer government position?

"Yeah, I think I would," he said. "Probably when my kids are more grown, though."

Coefield added that he hopes the legacy of his time served on the council is a positive one.

"Hopefully, people will say I brought joy and an orientation to love," he concluded.

Council vacancies abound through the years

The council will begin seeking to fill the District 4 vacancy at its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 18. Coefield's term was set to expire at the end of the year and an election for the position will be held in November.

The city has seen eight resignations since 2016; six were filled by appointment rather than election. In each case there was more than one year remaining on the respective councilor's four-year term of office.

At the Jan. 18 meeting city staff will seek guidance from the council on how to go forward, which will likely result in the return of a request for council action at a subsequent meeting.

The council's options are to leave the position unfilled for the remainder of the year, recruit for the position, recruit for the position but exclude anyone running for District 4 in the November general election or hold the position vacant until Nov. 8 and consider asking the winning candidate to take officer immediately.

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