After eight years on the job, Hood River City Manager Lynn Guenther has decided it is time to seek out a new challenge.
This week Guenther, 57, publicly announced that he will step down from his post next January. He wanted to give an early notice so that the City Council would have ample time to seek his replacement and get in some training time.
But Mayor Paul Cummings is reviewing several options that might keep Guenther on the job. He believes that it might be possible for the city to pass an ordinance that holds Guenther as an indentured servant. Cummings is also mulling the possibility of filing a breach of contract lawsuit with claims that Guenther promised to stay with the city as long as he was mayor — and he is currently only five months into his fourth two-year term.
“Lynn has demonstrated the ability to get the job done but he has been able to put the personal touch into the workings of city government — even developing a downtown parking plan that works,” said Cummings.
In an interview on Wednesday, Guenther said he will leave with a feeling of accomplishment that is derived from a number of projects that have either been completed under his watch, or are well on their way to resolution. These include major progress in the downtown urban renewal work that has upgraded infrastructure and beautified the central shopping corridor. Guenther has also overseen the development of Overlook Memorial Park, Stratton Gardens and the Skateboard Park for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors. In addition, he supervised the wastewater treatment plant renovation and orchestrated the current planning for replacement of an aging water main and pending installation of a stoplight at 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. Guenther’s last wish is to help the Port of Hood River finalize its long-awaited waterfront master plan before he leaves.
“I think if a person can look back on a career and recognize various successes that he may have had even a small part in then he can derive satisfaction from that,” he said.
Guenther credits the accomplishment of his top goals to the strong working relationship he has built with elected officials at all levels of government, creating a a united voice that has been successful in scoring grant dollars for several key projects.
“There are never any obstacles out there, only challenges — some larger than others — but that’s what makes the job interesting,” said Guenther, who has survived the pressure of leadership longer than many of his peers.
In fact, the former Air Force Colonel said the average stay at a top level of management is between three to four years and he has “outlasted” five city managers between Cascade Locks and The Dalles and four administrators within Hood River and Wasco counties.
When he retired as the commander at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash., Guenther, after 26 years of military service, wanted to make Hood River his home — and pursue a career in the private sector. He found it very enjoyable to step down from overseeing 1,000 military personnel and 664 civilian employees to leading 55 employees and maintaining the quality of life for more than 6,000 municipal residents.
“I was having fun, there were goals out there that I wanted to accomplish for the city,” said Guenther.
His basic philosophy has been that life on this earth is precious and needs to be lived and enjoyed to its fullest. That outlook was aquired, in part, from his experience as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Guenther, who endured a 14-month stint in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” came home to his wife, Sue, with a deeper appreciation for the comforts of everyday living.
Guenther has carried that proactive focus into his administrative style. He is strongly opposed to mico-management and has followed the credo of selecting the right people to do the job and then turning over the authority they need to fulfill their responsibilities.
He is unsure exactly what his next path will be but, as a certified fishing guide, he plans to take some time to cast his fly pole before hooking the next challenge.
“There are all kinds of opportunities out there, I plan to stay in the area and remain involved in the community,” said Guenther.