Canby Moving Forward with Nationwide Search for New City Administrator

Do you remember, like, a million years ago — way, way back in February, Canby dismissed their new city administrator four months into the job and never said why?

It was kind of a big deal back then. You know, before the world ended and all.

Well, apocalypse notwithstanding, Canby still needs a new city administrator.

The city is reusing the same executive search firm that landed them Scott McClure, Peckham & McKenney, a highly regarded outfit that agreed to conduct a new recruitment process at no additional charge, except direct expenses. In a virtual meeting on April 1, the firm accepted responsibility and apologized for last year’s failed recruitment.

“Again, I’m just very disappointed that we’re here,” Chief Operating Officer Phil McKenney told Mayor Brian Hodson and the Canby City Council. “I’m very disappointed that a severance package had to be put into play. I’m sorry to have caused that for you, and I’m sorry to be coming back to do this process again.”

In some ways, nothing has changed from last year. Canby’s city government leans heavily on its city administrator for day-to-day operations and major projects, and it needs a strong leader with wide experience. Residential, commercial and industrial growth, with all its related issues, remains a top concern.

But in other ways, everything has changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Canby City Hall is actually closed at the moment, though essential services continue, and it’s unknown how long it will be before things return to some semblance of normalcy.

And, once progress is made on the public health side of things, the economic impacts will reverberate for months or even years, with some economists already predicting the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“We’re in uncharted territory, and it’s going to be an interesting Canby on the back side of this,” Mayor Hodson said.

On top of the continued development, the new city administrator will need to take a leading role in the triage of local businesses and downtown merchants already reeling from the economic downturn that started barely a month ago.

“It’s going to have to be a look at how do we bounce back our Main Street and our small business community?” he said. “It’s going to be a new dynamic, for sure.”

Ample time was spent discussing whether the city should raise the advertised salary range for the position from $125,000-$150,000. Last year’s recruitment was advertised nationwide but ultimately attracted only two finalists for the position — both from smaller cities in Oregon.

If raising the range another $25,000 or so would dramatically increase the talent pool while also making Canby more competitive with other cities who are recruiting administrators, most councilors seemed to be in favor.

“At this point, I’m not interested in saving pennies, I’m interested in saving the city,” Councilor Greg Parker said.

Councilor Sarah Spoon said she remembers one early candidate who was particularly qualified during last year’s recruitment, but who dropped out after getting a better offer from somewhere else.

A successful hiring could also save the city money in the long run. McClure received a severance package of six months’ salary, or $75,000, along with a lump sum payment for six months’ worth of health insurance, when he was dismissed four months into his tenure in February.

McKenney agreed to conduct a salary survey and make recommendations about whether the range should be increased.

Another reason for as much continuity in leadership as possible is the uncertainty regarding the upcoming municipal election in November, where, unusually, five of the city’s seven elective positions will be up for grabs.

The mayor’s office and three seats on the council open up during every two-year cycle, but an additional vacancy was created bylast year’s resignation of former Councilor Tracie Heidt, who stepped down seven months into her second term.

Tryg Berge was appointed to replace her, but the seat must be opened back up to the voters at the next election, per the city charter. The winner of the election will serve the remaining two years of the four-year term.

The other council seats that will be open are those currently held by Spoon, Traci Hensley and Tim Dale.

Assistant City Administrator and HR Director Amanda Zeiber has been officially serving as interim city administrator since Feb. 25.

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