Newberg mayor delivers 'State of the City' address
(Editor's note: Mayor Rick Rogers presented his State of the City address at a Jan. 21 meeting of the Newberg City Club)
The past year has been anything but dull.
Almost since the day I took office (on Jan. 7, 2019 or 379 days ago) the city of Newberg has been embroiled in lawsuits, investigations, allegations and counter-allegations mainly among top-level staff. While I began my term thinking I, and the rest of City Council, would be focusing on 'roads, pipes, plans and safety' we have instead been forced to address traumatic personnel issues that have earned city hall the published characterization of being a place of 'chaos, turmoil, animosity, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, sexual harassment, infighting and dysfunction'.
The issues are real. The problems are certain and debilitating. The troubles must stop. The problems aren't new.
However, I have said it before and will say it again – these troubles do not define all city employees nor this community.
One thing I have clearly learned over the past year is that every day, city employees – your employees – go to work with the intent of doing the best they can by the residents of Newberg. Behind me on the screen are 57 slides that will be playing while I speak. In these slides are just some of the accomplishments that departments have provided listing last years' activities. (Thank you to our new Community Engagement Specialist Lacey Dykgraaf for preparing these slides and to the leadership team who provided the information).
'Accomplishments in Spite of Chaos' might well be the title of this talk.
Even though city hall found itself on the front pages of the Newberg Graphic, the News Register and The Oregonian, employees still went to work. Permits were still issued, sewage was still treated, roads and sidewalks were still improved, our streets were still patrolled.
If you want to see the glass half full – imagine what can and will be accomplished in the absence of troubles? I must look at things this way or going into city hall would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
Over the past year I have thought quite a bit about the origins of our personnel difficulties. In reviewing the history, there is one single issue that to me points to the root cause of the problems. Since 2012, or over the past eight years, the city of Newberg has had eight city managers. Some of you will undoubtedly recall (that's recall not re-call, by the way), but the sequence went like this: Dan Danicic, Lee Elliott, Jacque Betz, Terry Mahr, Steve Rhodes, Joe Hannan, Matt Zook and David Clyne. Three of these were permanent hires, five were interim. A special thanks to Matt Zook, our finance director, and David Clyne, a retired city manager from Independence, for stepping in during these trying times.
To fully understand the upheaval a lack of continuity generates, it is important to understand the councilor/manager form of government. This form of government is the most prevalent in Oregon (in fact only three communities use other forms -- Portland, Beaverton and Aurora). In this municipal government model, the mayor and City Council are elected by the public – by you – to make decisions on the public's behalf. The single most important decision is the hiring of a city manager. If the council is the board of directors, the city manager is the CEO. Nearly all of the city's employees (130 full-time and 20 part-time for a total full-time equivalent of 136) report to the city manager.
The police chief and the directors of human resources, information technology, library, finance, public works and community development all report to the city manager. The city manager is also the chief budget officer of the city. He/she prepares the $115 million budget message for adoption.
Imagine what happens in times of great turnover in the top position? We might as well have hung a permanent 'Under New Management' sign on the front door of city hall. It does not take a PhD in management science to know that a revolving door of CEOs is not the proverbial recipe for municipal or managerial success. An absence of consistent leadership can result in tension, dysfunction, chaos, headlines and lawsuits.
Enough of the troubles.
I promised this talk would focus on "Accomplishments in Spite of Chaos" – so here are just a few of the 57 slides behind me.
Community Development – Community Visioning: This vast undertaking (A NewBerg) set your goals for our community.
Community Development – Building: Conducted 4,500 inspections.
Public Works – Engineering: $1.4 million in pavement preservation projects.
Public Works – Water Treatment: Almost 29 million gallons of re-use water sent to the golf course.
Public Works – Maintenance: Responded to 147 emergency calls (70 of which were off hours).
Newberg-Dundee Police Department: Responded to 35,000 calls for service.
Library: More than 129,000 library visits or over 113 per hour.
Public Works employees Leo French-Pinzon and Brian Faulhaber won the Everyday Hero awards from the Oregon chapter of the American Public Works Association.
Newberg-Dundee police officers were recognized by their peers at the Oregon Peace Officers Association annual awards ceremony including: Distinguished Service Award -- Officer Steve Schoening; Medal of Valor -- Officer Nathan James; Life Saving Awards -- Officers Tom Sattler, Dan Fouch, Justin Caughlin, Ariel Siqueiros, Jeromy Pilon, Sgt. Mark Cooke and Capt. Jeff Kosmicki.
Finance – Received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
Newberg-Dundee Police Department named the 2019 Safest City in Oregon by backgroundchecks.org based on FBI crime data.
These are just some of the 2019 accomplishments of the dedicated staff and volunteers at the city of Newberg.
Beyond these there are other indicators that give me hope. Even with the troubles featured prominently in local papers and the state's paper of record (and on social media) we still managed to attract: 37 individual applications for the city Manager position, five applications for a council vacancy in District 5, six applications for a council vacancy in District 2 and all but one spot on city committees currently full (if you are interested and available, Traffic Safety is looking for a member).
This interest shows me that Newberg had a bright future that people, even people from outside our community, are willing to invest in.
One other note: without the input of you, the public, we have nothing. You are our bosses – you are the shareholders in this corporation. You provide the input that allows us to make the decisions necessary to be the best community we can be.
As a case in point, it takes nearly 100 individual volunteers to staff eight standing and a varying number of ad hoc citizen committees. Without this involvement – we simply cannot function.
So where now?
One of the greatest accomplishments of the past year was actually inked the beginning of this year. On Jan. 6, we hired Dan Weinheimer as our next city manager. We believe Dan has the experience, demeanor and skill to lead us past the troubles and into a very bright future.
As with all hires, we will only truly know if Dan fits the city and if the city fits Dan once he has begun. He starts Feb. 24.
I hope that you will welcome Dan and his family wholeheartedly and that all -- the community, the staff, the city volunteers, our community partners, the mayor and council -- will support Dan's efforts to manage and lead our city well into the future.
Next year, if I am still here, I hope to deliver a State of the City that includes only news of accomplishments. No more troubles. We (the council and our interim City Manager David Clyne) have actively addressed the problems and Dan will continue to do so.
Thank you for your time, your understanding and for your support.
Rick Rogers is in his first term as mayor of Newberg
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