City manager candidate in hot seat

Wes Hare responds to questions from city councilors Monday, June 14.

The primary candidate for the city’s interim city manager job had an informal interview for the job at a Keizer City Council work session Monday, June 14, but he almost didn’t show up.

Wes Hare, the candidate, said he was on the phone with Keizer human resources manager and planned to withdraw his name from consideration until his wife told him to show the council who he is.

“It triggered a lot of self-analysis and I decided I would tell the council why I was interested,” Hare said. “I do not walk away from challenges.”

Hare said he was angry after City Councilor Ross Day attempted to malign his reputation at a city council meeting a week prior. Day said a previous encounter, in a legal matter in which he represented an Albany business owner, while Hare was city manager there left him with a negative impression. The verbatim critique itself was much more pointed with Day saying he had trust issues regarding the candidate.

According to court records, Day is listed as an attorney in a dispute over right-of-way assessments in Albany. Day himself was absent for medical reasons from the proceedings Monday.

In addressing Day’s perceptions, Hare said he did not remember ever meeting Day until the matter came up in the council meeting.

“My perspective on the issue is very different from his. I am sincere when I tell you what he said is inaccurate,” Hare said.

Turning to other matters, Hare spoke about his experience as city manager in Oakridge, La Grande and Albany as well as time spent in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka consulting on efforts to establish local governments.

Mayor Cathy Clark asked about Hare’s approach to the job of an interim city manager in the wake of sudden departures.

“What heals is consistent leadership from the council,” Hare said. “What you are asking your city manager to do is hold staff accountable for good performance.”

Councilor Elizabeth Smith asked whether Hare could play a part in helping the city include more people at higher levels in city discussion. Hare was Albany’s staff liaison to a human relations commission that was intended to assist in doing just that.

The Albany commission experienced troubled times, Hare said, but success depends on the mission and definition of success.

“If [the goal] is to bring peace and harmony, then it probably isn’t the route to take. If it’s to raise difficult questions and try to come up with answers, then I think it was a success,” Hare said.

Councilor Roland Herrera asked what a city manager’s role is in adapting to changing demographics.

“The hope that the workforce is reflective of the make-up of the city and that was a formal goal of the City of Albany,” Hare said. “A city manager should try to bring out the best in people. You do that by listening and trying to hear what people have to say.”

Councilor Kyle Juran wanted to know if Hare would be willing to stick with the city if the hiring process for a permanent city manager runs longer than the intended 6-12 months.

“The short answer is, ‘Yes.’ I’m willing to stay as long as you need me, but I’m going to be really offensive during the last few months,” said Hare, drawing laughter from the council.

When asked what questions Hare had for the council, he didn’t mention Day by name, but asked if councilors were willing to honor majority decisions – and support city staff in executing them – without interference by those who disagree.

“We count to four,” responded Clark, referring to the possibilities of close decisions. “But we also count to seven because there are perspectives that get to ‘yes’ with a bigger solution that is different from what a few people think. The solution that gets to seven is typically better than the solution crafted by one,” Clark said.

“Regardless of what the vote looks like, the hope is that everyone honors the decision and it’s not easy to do sometimes because a decision can go against the core values of some individuals,” responded Hare.

The council will need to decide whether to move Hare through the next steps to a potential appointment as interim city manager. The next steps include checking Hare’s references and negotiating a contract.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said no vote will be needed unless members of the council raise concerns that prompt one.