Alex McIntyre accepts post in California

(news photo)

ELGL thanks Alex for his support and commitment to promote the local government profession. We’ll continue to carry on this message. 

Lake Oswego City Manager Alex McIntyre announced Wednesday he is leaving his post to become city manager of Menlo Park, Calif., a city of about 32,000 south of San Francisco.

“The opportunity to get back to California is just too strong,” said McIntyre, 50, a native Californian who now lives in the Hillsdale area of Southwest Portland. “After four years in Lake Oswego, it sort of feels like I’ve done all I can. … I think it’s a good time to go.”

He added that Menlo Park is working on some “really exciting things,” including welcoming Facebook’s new headquarters.

When McIntyre took the city manager position in Lake Oswego in March 2008, the city faced its largest public infrastructure endeavor to date.

“When I arrived, the LOIS (Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer) project was a $126 million dollar problem,” he said. “As I’m leaving Lake Oswego, the entire project is completed – on time and significantly under budget. It speaks well to what my team did in managing the project, communicating the project and delivering the project. That’s one thing I’m quite proud of.”

McIntyre is also credited with bringing more transparency and flexibility to the budget process after he shifted the city from biennial to annual budgets. “Financially, we’re stronger today than when I joined the city,” he said.

McIntyre pointed to the formation of the economic development office as another key accomplishment during his tenure, along with his move to break down components of the former community development division “to make it more efficient and make it perform better.”

“I think we’ve had good luck with that,” he said.

But some efforts didn’t have such clean results. Looking back, McIntyre acknowledged, “You always see things with a different eye.”

In the case of the controversial West End Building, purchased for $20 million in 2006, McIntyre said he’s happy to have worked with the council and city staff to better understand issues with the WEB: Its benefits and costs, what the community wants from it and what can be done. But he wishes more could have been done with the property than simply refinancing it.

“The council and community remain divided on what to do with the facility and what to do with the property,” he said.

That’s one area a new city manager could find a challenge.

“Lake Oswego is always going to be a great community, and it’s always going to draw strong talent to it,” McIntyre said. “But I think the council remains really divided on a lot of policy lines. A new manager coming in is really going to have to understand that those divisions are fairly fixed, and, until a new council comes together around certain issues, I think it’s going to remain a challenge for the new city manager.

“The division of the council may or may not reflect the division of the community; that’s the piece I’ve never been quite certain of.”

He said Menlo Park is similar in size and other characteristics to Lake Oswego.

“It’s known for its schools; it attracts a lot of high-income, successful people.”

The city, which lies in the suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose, with Palo Alto to the southeast and Redwood City to the north, is struggling to revitalize its downtown, McIntyre said. But while many members of the community are affluent or middle class, he said, “There is also a working-class end which provides unique challenges.”

Before coming to Lake Oswego, McIntyre was the chief assistant county administrator in the Bay Area’s Marin County for two and a half years. He worked as town manager in Tiburon from 2000 to 2006, and he held a variety of other public agency positions throughout California before that. McIntyre was born in San Francisco and grew up in Southern California.

Although he is pleased to be returning to his roots, McIntyre said he will miss Lake Oswego.

“A job like what I do for a living is so often about the people. It’s really about the people I work for and, in this case, the people I work with,” he said. “My biggest sadness is that I’m leaving behind a team of coworkers who are absolute professionals, who are really on their game and know their business, and who, despite all sorts of obstacles, do tremendous work.”

The city council will eventually appoint an interim city manager but has not yet identified a process or timeline to do so. McIntyre said city leaders would need to decide whether to search for a permanent replacement now or wait to hire someone after a new council is seated in January 2013. Technically, the city charter limits an interim city manager to a six-month appointment, Mayor Jack Hoffman said.

Hoffman said McIntyre has been an “exceptional” city manager.

“Alex is a star among city managers in the region, as far as I’m concerned,” Hoffman said. “He has the ability to see the big picture, he is creative, he has the ability to gather around him top-quality people.

“And he is confident enough in his own abilities to allow his people to work on behalf of the city and also interact with the city council. Unlike other city managers in the region, he did not require that all communication between the council and management staff go through him, but rather he had the confidence to allow or encourage management to deal directly with council members.”

Calling this a “sad day” in Lake Oswego, Hoffman added: “He will be sorely missed.”