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Drake has spent part of five decades in local government, including as mayor of Beaverton.

(PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL) - Cornelius city manager Rob Drake walks with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici at Cornelius Elementary in 2019.One of Washington County's longest-tenured public servants is retiring after parts of five decades in various offices.

Rob Drake told the Cornelius City Council last month he plans to retire from his position as city manager at the end of June.

"I've had a really exciting and wonderful career. Now I'm looking forward to spending time with my family," Drake said at the Dec. 10 meeting. "I'm really honored to have helped lead Cornelius through the last 10 years in a very genuine and  heartfelt way."

Drake, 72, grew up in Northeast Portland before moving to Beaverton. He graduating from Sunset High School in 1967 and earned a degree from Portland State University.

Drake analyzed legislation for a think tank, drove a Wonder Bread delivery truck and sold wine before successfully running for Beaverton City Council in 1987. In 1993, he started a four-term, 16-year stint as mayor until 2009.

"I lost a bid for a fifth term. It was embarrassing, but that's part of that process of maturing and learning about life," Drake said. "I'm not the brightest guy in the room. I've always acknowledged that."

In 2021, Beaverton voted to adopt a council-manager form of government, standard for Oregon cities with more than 2,500 people, in which the city council hires a chief executive officer under the title city manager or administrator to supervise day-to-day operations instead of the mayor.

But when Drake was mayor, he had an administrative role, supervising department heads and overseeing City Hall. That gave him experience that made him sought after by other city governments after he left office in Beaverton.

After his time in Beaverton, Drake spent six months as interim city manager in both Tillamook and Carlton. This February, he will mark 10 years as Cornelius' city manager.

Drake earned plaudits for taking the reins of a city government in crisis, stepping in after a feud between former city manager Dave Waffle and former mayor Neal Knight led to Waffle being fired, Knight and two other council members being recalled, and City Hall grappling with an increasingly serious budget shortfall in 2011.

Drake points to the construction of a new Cornelius Public Library as well as an overhaul of the city police as his biggest accomplishments in Cornelius.

In 2014, the city disbanded its police department and began contracting with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.(PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL) - Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin poses for a photo with city manager Rob Drake and Dr. Cliff Walters at the Cornelius Public Library.

"When I got here, the Latino community felt intimidated by our police department," Drake said. "There was no trust. So we had to make the change."

In 2019, the library more than quadrupled in size when it moved into three three-story Cornelius Place building at the corner of North Adair Street and 14th Avenue.

"I've cherished the many years I've been able to work with Rob. He's set the bar for what it means to be an exceptional public servant," Metro councilor and Cornelius native Juan Carlos González said.

"We previously had people who were regulators, rather than partners, in some staff positions. Rob was instrumental in coaching people, and when we had people try to take advantage of the city, Rob was always there to say no," said Mayor Jef Dalin, who was on the City Council for eight years before becoming mayor after Knight was recalled in 2011.

Dalin added, "We will hire another city manager, but we won't replace Rob Drake."

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