If you can’t reach your childhood dream of playing in the NHL, why not settle for second best by becoming the Bend Assistant City Manager. That’s where Jon Skidmore landed which turned out quite well, since if Jon was in the NHL his family might have missed out on Christmas this year due to the ongoing strike. In our interview with Jon, you will learn about a festive Sponge Bob tune, the best ski slopes in Central Oregon, and his mentors including a few with Clackamas County roots.
The Transition with Jon Skidmore
Bend Assistant City Manager
Three projects that you are currently working on:
The Assistant City Manager position was created to provide a Chief Operating Officer role within the City of Bend. As such I oversee our Public Works, Community Development and Economic Developments. I’ll highlight a project within each department.
It’s no surprise that the City of Bend grew at extremely fast pace over the past few decades. From 1990 – 2010 the City grew by 8.5 people per day. Our infrastructure and infrastructure planning had a tough time keeping up with the growth. We recently formed the Sewer Infrastructure Advisory Group (SIAG) consisting of 17 community members to assist us as we revisit our collection system master plan. We had feedback that our existing plan was too expensive and unable to quickly provide relief to some existing challenged areas. This group is helping us work through those issues. It also provides an opportunity to build trust with our ever growing and changing community.
In Community Development we recently implemented a project manager role for complex projects in review. Often projects that have a land use review, building review and engineering review will have a host of consultants working on the various portions of the project. This can lead to problems with exchange of consistent information. Our project manager role is filled by a senior staff person who oversees all of the reviews, stays in touch with the various reviewers and has regular contact with a designated point person on the applicant’s team. It has proven to be an effective tool in improving communication.
Our Economic Development Department is a bit unique. The City Council recently chartered the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB) to advise council on items relating to economic development. The BEDAB consists of 9 members, 6 from the local business community and 3 from local business support organizations. The BEDAB is staffed by our Business Advocate who works with City Staff to improve city processes that impact business and helps with coordinating efforts within the community for business recruitment, retention and expansion. Currently we are working on a recruitment effort targeting smaller recreational based companies on the west coast.
Suggestions for future ELGL speakers:
- David Horsager – was the keynote speaker at the LOC conference this past September.
Representative John Huffman – he’s been a really effective legislator and an all-around great guy. Related link: Off the Stump with State Rep. John Huffman
Favorite place to ski in Central Oregon:
I love Mt. Bachelor but the back side of Hoodoo with enough snow is great as well. On the Nordic side of things – skate ski or classic – it’s tough to beat Virginia Meisner. The trails are groomed regularly and it’s cheap (donations encouraged).
Most people don’t set out to become an assistant city manager, what was your dream job as a child?
I wanted to play in the NHL. That didn’t happen for a variety of reasons – mainly ability. Although I haven’t necessarily targeted city management as a career path, I really enjoy the work – especially working with our community members. Community Development, Economic Development and Infrastructure planning in Oregon requires a good understanding of our land use system – my background as a planner has helped with the transition.
Three biggest issues facing Bend:
I’ll comment on the two biggest issues facing Bend that I see.
One – infrastructure. As a community we haven’t invested in our infrastructure adequately to serve our existing community or future growth. If we don’t address these issues quickly we run the risk of deterring economic development interest. We are facing what I call generational infrastructure projects with sewer, water and streets. The direction of our community growth will be set for decades by the decisions we make on these three systems now.
Two – funding. We have an extraordinarily low tax rate. This makes it difficult to adequately fund our core services (public safety, community/economic development and infrastructure). Further, as federal and state funding for major infrastructure programs are basically nonexistent, the burden of funding the huge infrastructure falls on the rate payers. We have large projects to develop and it will be interesting working with the community to identify funding sources for these projects.
But even with those two issues Bend is still my favorite place on earth. I’m extremely proud of my city and community – I’m very fortunate to work in such a cool town with interesting challenges.
Give us a few book recommendations:
- Anything by Erik Larson (Devil in the White City is a good introduction).
- Freaknomics – that’s a great read.
- Last Harvest by Witold Rybczinski. It’s a study of land development in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It should be required reading for anyone working in land use and development. Further, and quite randomly, my high school class president is featured in the book. Small world.
What’s on your iPod’s Recently Played list?
- Alice in Chains
- The Raconteurs
- The Beatles
- Umphrey’s McGee
- This time of the year my kids and I listen to Sponge Bob’s “Don’t be a Jerk it’s Christmas” quite a bit.
Most difficult part of transitioning from your former role as a business advocate to assistant city manager.
Eric King (City Manager) has been extremely helpful with the transition. As I knew my coworkers prior to taking the position it wasn’t too difficult from that end. The biggest challenge is recognizing that there is a bit of an “air of authority” that accompanies the ACM role. I’m having difficulty with that as I consider myself “one of the guys.” I’ve had a few instances where informal comments I’ve made during conversations have been considered more formal than they were intended.
In one sentence, describe what it is like working for Eric King.
Working with Eric is great – he is always available for brainstorming, doesn’t micro-manage but provides direction & expectations. He stepped into the City Manager job at a tough time when there was a lot of change within the community. He’s done a great job of changing culture in-house and building better relationships with the community (I know that is more than one sentence).
Who do you consider your mentors?
Whether they know it or not, and in no particular order of priority:
- The late, great Doug McClain (Clackamas County Planning Director for many moons)
- Mike McCallister (current Clackamas County Planning Director)
- Tom Walker (long time engineer with W&H Pacific)
- Bill Willitts (owner/developer of Five Pine in Sisters)
- Steve Pfeiffer (land use attorney with Perkins Coie)
- My parents