By SUE RYAN
News staff writer
November 4, 2006
Cascade Locks city administrator Bob Willoughby resigned earlier this week to take a position with the city of Florence, Ore.
His last day in Cascade Locks will be Dec. 1. Willoughby has managed the town since 2000. He said the current political climate was a contributing factor but not the entire reason he sought work elsewhere.
“My preference was to stay here six months ago … but a couple of things happened to make me send out resumes,” he said.
His summer vacation took him to Florence for fishing and, while there, he heard about the opening. Florence is a town of 9,000 and Cascade Locks has 1,150 people.
“When I returned, there was a group of candidates talking about putting their own staff into city hall,” he said.
There are 11 candidates vying for four city council positions in the Nov. 7 election. Willoughby said while it was uncertain who would win the election, he thought it would be prudent to send out resumes.
“I hadn’t decided I wanted to leave Cascade Locks but thought it wise to have options for myself and my family,” he said.
He also applied for positions in Monmouth, Fairview and Woodburn and believed the process would take a number of months; which would give him more time to decide.
“Then I was thrown a curve ball when I was called for an interview in Florence a few weeks ago,” he said.
The town and its council impressed him. He said it has undergone some growth issues similar to what Cascade Locks is going through. Willoughby cited one capital project as an example, that of Florence’s need for a stormwater drain system.
“My experience here is what made me a candidate for them,” he said.
When he returned from the interview, he read statements in the Cascade Locks town newsletter “The Locks Tender” by candidates running for office. He referred to statements mentioning financial accountability and micromanagement at city hall giving him the final push toward deciding to leave.
“I have absolutely no desire to be micro-managed,” Willoughby said. “I’m a professional manager, have done this for a number of years, and know what I’m doing.”
He said criticisms swirling in the community and at the council level in recent months have been particularly troubling because he feels he has just been doing his job.
“I’ve done what I have been asked to do then I’ve been criticized for doing it,” Willoughby said. The sale of the McCoy property and subsequent controversy following it made him feel councilors who had supported him reversed their position.
“I had talked to the council for more than a year about affordable housing, paying the debt to the county, and raising money for the fire hall,” he said.
The vote over the sale of the city-owned land in July sparked a recall petition for two councilors, which is also on the Nov. 7 ballot. Willoughby said he is disappointed the situation reached the point that he felt he had to quit.
“Florence is a great career opportunity for me with substantially more resources, money, and less headache,” he said.
He said he is grateful to his staff that have worked hard as a team on projects that have helped propel the city forward. Among his accomplishments in Cascade Locks, he revived the $250 million proposed tribal casino project, obtained $700,000 in grants for the city’s new fire hall, and obtained $1.8 million in Congressional earmarks for undergrounding the city’s power line to Multnomah County.