New City Attorney desires longevity

With former legal titan, Shannon Johnson, retiring, the position of City Attorney will be helmed by a new practitioner of the law, Joseph Lindsay. 

Having officially started as of Jan. 17, Lindsay brings more than 11 years of experience as the former City Attorney for the City of Canby. 

A Eugene-native, Lindsay has lived all over Oregon, living in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Canby and will soon be coming to Keizer. 

While not currently a Kezier resident, Lindsay stated one of his more pressing goals is to rectify that this coming Spring, though he does live less than 30 miles outside the city currently. 

Lindsay described the current hesitation as a combination of increasingly high interest rates for homes as well as wanting to wait for his two youngest to graduate from high school.

Lindsay’s education credentials include an undergraduate and master’s degree to be an educator as well as going to law school and earning his Juris Doctorate.

Previously, Lindsay worked at the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA) during the last five months in what he described as a “generalist” position offering legal aid and advice to schools throughout Oregon that are covered by the OSBA.

Saying goodbye to the Oregon School Board Association, Lindsay noted that the allure of an open City Attorney position in Keizer drew him back into the world of municipal law. 

In Canby, Lindsay served as the only attorney and his duties encompassed the whole in-house legal department. 

From drafting legal documents, to providing advice to the council and representing them during legal meetings or contractual work with service utilities.

Lindsay has done it all while maintaining his availability to serve the public when they need it. 

The move to Keizer will be a step up in population as well as with around 18,000 citizens, Canby is around half the size of Kezier. 

Despite the doubling of the populace, Lindsay described how this will not present an issue. 

He stated how, regardless of the population size, the duties of a city attorney are within a certain scope so while the amount of times he may have to conduct a certain practice, like researching permitting or zoning, will increase, the tasks themselves will stay the same. 

From his time in Canby, Lindsay has many claims to legal fame, largely in part from the foresight of the City of Canby and their creation of an industrial park within the city. 

As the city’s legal department, Lindsay was able to help attract more companies and businesses to the city as well as helping to create a quiet zone in the middle of town. 

Lindsay also worked with local developers in Canby to create the city’s first four-story mixed-use zoned building with a business on the lower half and residences on top. 

Lindsay noted that buildings like this may provide an overall boon to a city trying to build as it helps “incentivize and activate the downtown,” according to Lindsay. 

When asked why he chose to come back into the world of municipal law, Lindsay said that while his previous job allowed him to help people it was limited to the select few that the OSBA liaisons that communicate with the organization. 

In comparison, as the City Attorney for Keizer, Lindsay noted his reach would be greater as he would have a greater capacity to positively affect more people as compared to his previous position. 

“I like being a pillar in the community and treating that city official role like somebody who is going to stick around and make sure that everything’s not only done well, but also that everything that happens downstream is still being provided for,” Lindsay said. 

In regards to interacting with the public and those who request records, Lindsay stated he follows the initiative of the current Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, and that erring towards the side of transparency is always preferable.

“Public records are interesting because it is a balancing act when there are certain privacies or embarrassments that might occur for folks,” Lindsay said.

Finding that balance is not always easy, however, when trying to protect an individual’s privacy while also balancing what information that best serves the public.

Eager to get underway, Lindsay stated he first wants to get to know the council and other staff as he gets more acclimated to the new environment. 

“I want to come in and actually learn and listen. Let everybody get to know me and trust me, and make sure that I am seen as a trusted advisor and then see what needs to be done,” Lindsay said. 

Lindsay hinted at a few other important first steps as well, primarily the city’s urban growth boundary (UGB) and all the pieces needed to expand and how to best develop the land as well as adhering to conservation laws in Oregon, having a grasp on how much land is needed as well as how the city will properly expand into these areas.

When interacting with his new council, Lindsay noted that his first goal will be to acclimate himself to each councilor. 

Overall, his process involves discussing his expectations for the position as well as what he is able to accomplish and preparing councilors, old and new, with what their expectations should look like for both themselves as well as for the City Attorney. 

Despite being only the second person to hold the position, Lindsay noted that he does not feel this presents as an issue. 

Lindsay stated how because Shannon Johnson was amicable and approachable he set a standard that Lindsay is all too happy to carry on.

Trying to break the common television trope that lawyers are simply untrustworthy attack dogs, Lindsay said that being approachable often aids in how easy the job is as well as making it easier to deal with a situation before it grows out of control.

“My advice is always better if people come to me before there is trouble,” Lindsay said. 

For Lindsay, another crucial characteristic he wanted to highlight he is bringing to the position is his desire for longevity in the position. 

While working for Canby, Lindsay soon found himself as one of the longest-serving individuals and how this only served his benefit. 

From the day-to-day duties to the long range city planning, Lindsay stated a large reason he grew as competent in municipal law as he did was due to his many years of service. 

And, here in Keizer his goals have not changed. 

“I think the fact that I spent a long time in a city keeping it out of trouble and keeping it progressing forward will be an advantage for me,” Lindsay stated. 

In terms of city planning, Lindsay appears to be full of positive directions to head in, though the binding theme between them reads as expanding the city to invite new opportunities. 

“The idea is you have to come up with what you need for 20 years. As you expand, you are also looking at what could be industry, what could be commercial, and then that could be housing,” Lindsay said. 

“They always say that industrial [businesses] in particular bring in a whole lot of tax increment. You might have a warehouse or distribution center that brings in the tax equivalent of 500 homes and it’s just one business.”

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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