City Administrator Scott Archer has announced he will be leaving Canby after two and a half years of service to accept a new role as deputy city administrator in Salem, officials announced Wednesday night. Archer’s last day with the City of Canby will be May 5.
Archer led the city government through several disasters, including the later phases of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ice storm and heat dome of 2021.
His tenure also included the completion of several major municipal projects, including the new pickleball complex at Maple Street Park and downtown railroad quiet zone and Grant Street arch.
The announcement came during Wednesday night’s Canby City Council meeting, though it was no real surprise: A discussion regarding the “upcoming city administrator position vacancy and succession process” had been included on the night’s agenda, published earlier in the week.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as your city administrator for the past two and a half years,” Archer told the council and Mayor Brian Hodson Wednesday.
“I want to express my utmost appreciation to Mayor Hodson, current city council members, former city councilors, our very talented and dedicated City of Canby staff team, our city volunteers and, of course, our residents and all the stakeholders that we work with in the community.”
Though brief, Archer believes his time with the city was positive and impactful.
“Collectively, we’ve accomplished or made significant, forward progress on numerous important initiatives and projects for Canby,” he said. “Each of these is a testament not to me, but to the collective teamwork of the city organization and the entire community. It really is a reflection of the can-do spirit of Canby. …
“The most cherished memories of my work with Canby are the day-to-day and ongoing interactions with so many wonderful people. And I’m just so appreciative of that. I’m grateful for my time with the city. I wish all the best for Canby in everything in the future.”
Canby marked Archer’s first foray as a city manager, though his local government experience spans three decades in a wide variety of roles, most recently as the director of the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District from 2016 to 2020.
In his new role with the City of Salem, deputy city manager for community services, Archer will oversee parks and recreation, the library, senior center, youth development, neighborhoods, sheltering and homelessness response, and other community programs and services.
The maximum salary for the position is $245,148, according to Salem Reporter. The hiring process started earlier this year, with initial interviews in February. Archer is expected to begin on May 22.
On Wednesday night, Hodson and several councilors warmly thanked Archer for his service to Canby and wished him well.
“I appreciate everything you’ve done in this role for us,” Hodson said. “There’s a lot to be proud of. I’m still not thrilled that you’re moving on, but I do appreciate everything you’ve done for us, very much.”
“Scott, I was very sad about the news that you’re leaving us,” Councilor Herman Maldonado agreed. “However, I believe Salem is gonna get a rock star of an administrator down there. Thank you.”
Councilor Chris Bangs also expressed his appreciation of Archer’s service and disappointment at his departure, while nodding to the recent controversy that has entangled the City Council, city government and staff, primarily City Attorney and Assistant City Administrator Joe Lindsay.
“I’m disappointed that he’s moving on to Salem. I don’t know if that’s going to help our city,” Bangs said. “And I wanted to express frustration to this council for creating the situation that we’ve been in.”
Bangs took the opportunity to fire shots in the direction of some of the council’s more conservative members, who claimed the board’s majority in last November’s general election.
“I just want to point out that you all have the majority now,” Bangs said. “And in six weeks, you managed to shut down all progress in our city because of the executive session we held on February 15. Canby deserves better.
“You guys can run the city just with your majority, without violating public meeting law and without violating government ethics, and so, I request that you do that.”
Bangs’ comments did not appear to be well-received by several of his colleagues, seemingly least of all by Council President Traci Hensley, who sighed loudly and rolled her eyes.
Wednesday night also included the introduction of David F. Doughman, of Beery Elsner and Hammond LLP, a Portland firm the council appointed to provide interim legal services in Lindsay’s absence.
Lindsay has been on medical leave of his own volition since March 9, after sending a 10-page letter to the mayor and council outlining his complaints and possible violations of public meetings, records and ethics laws, mainly concerning the aforementioned February 15 meeting in executive session.
Archer’s imminent departure and Lindsay’s ongoing leave have created what more than one councilor described as a “pickle” that Doughman was asked to weigh in on. Lindsay is the city’s assistant city administrator and has served as interim during previous vacancies, including prior to Archer’s hire in 2020.
On paper, he would be the natural choice to step into the role again while the search for Archer’s replacement gets underway, but his absence complicates matters. He has informed the city he plans to return to work on May 1, which would give Archer only a few days to pass the torch.
Several councilors expressed the need to reach for a more readily available backup.
“I do believe that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Hensley said. “[Lindsay’s] scheduled date to return is May 1, Scott’s scheduled date to leave is May 5, and our meeting is May 3. That’s just not enough time to get somebody up to speed on where the budget is.
“I am really concerned because, honestly, last year’s budget process was not up to par in my opinion. And I don’t want everything to fall apart this year.”
Councilor Shawn Varwig was of the opinion that the council should name an interim city administrator that night, which would give the person more than two weeks to shadow Archer and get up to speed.
“My concern is that, obviously, Mr. Lindsay is on protected leave, and we can’t ask him if he’s willing to step into that position,” Varwig said. “It gives us one meeting and three days from that time of appointment to Scott’s leaving. And I just don’t think that’s enough time to transition all of the projects that we’re working on and the budget.”
But others urged a more deliberate approach.
“I think it might be wise to err on the side of caution and wait until Mr. Lindsay comes back and have that conversation with him,” Councilor Jason Padden said. “And if he chooses not to step into that role, then we can go ahead and appoint an interim.
“I’m really trying to err on the side of caution for the citizens of this community in that we, in my opinion, are already flirting with litigation. And I do not want to waste taxpayer money on a lawsuit because this group decided that they wanted to jump the gun on something.”
The council ultimately agreed to proceed with the recruitment process for replacing Archer, which is expected to take at least several months, and table the discussion of appointing an interim city administrator until a special meeting on Tuesday, April 25.
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