Outgoing city manager Lynn Guenther delivered a “politically-incorrect” farewell address on Saturday — and his audience expected nothing less.
In true form, Guenther issued good-humored insults to many of the 100 community members and staff in attendance. All during the afternoon, the former U.S. Air Force Colonel had been ribbed by friends and co-workers about his “colorful” way of expressing himself. And he lived up that expectation after taking the podium at the Hood River Inn to share his final thoughts.
“I affectionately have called my planners the ‘tree-huggin’, ’rock-kissin’ department,” he said in reference to the ideological differences between himself and Cindy Walbridge, planning director.
But Walbridge dished up equal “insults” to Guenther, saying that she had been forced to use “Aunt Martha” conversations to educate him. By simplifying land-use issues in a way that even “Aunt Martha” could understand — an idea suggested by Guenther — Walbridge said she could typically answer his question, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“He’s so Right and I’m so Left that we actually met in the middle and could get some good work done,” said Walbridge, who described Guenther as a leader who inspired respect because he was not afraid to make tough decisions, or admit to mistakes when he was wrong.
In a tearful goodbye, Walbridge presented Guenther with a drawing of “Aunt Martha” that had been created by McKenna, her 9-year-old daughter. In turn, he praised her abilities and accepted the gift with a hug and a personal word of thanks to the bashful young artist.
Guenther was also presented with a designer lamp that had bronzed fish around the base by Steve Everroad, city finance director.
“For a number of years, the staff have been providing illumination for Lynn Guenther and we plan to continue providing that illumination,” Everroad said.
Guenther was also presented with an “old goat” stuffed animal and several items related to fishing, his favorite hobby in spite of the fact that he once lost his boat.
However, Guenther explained to the crowd that he would not have a lot of time to pursue that outdoor interest because of his new career path.
He said his time would soon be split as a greeter for the new Wal-Mart super center and a blackjack dealer at the new tribal casino. He was also planning to move into a condominium developed by Mt. Hood Meadows and spend time sunbathing on Lot 6 at the waterfront.
“I think I’ve covered every contentious issue on the books,” laughed Guenther to a round of applause.
He was praised repeatedly during the three-hour event for his straight style of dealing with issues and high level of integrity.
“Because of our relationship with Lynn, we’ve all picked up points of wisdom,” said Will Carey, the city’s municipal court judge.
Guenther, a decorated combat veteran, credited his success in life to heeding the following words of a four-star General, “Surround yourself with people who are smarter and brighter than you and then listen and do what they tell you.”
“It’s been a great run,” said Guenther, who plans, in reality, to pursue a third career in real estate.