Friday, July 22, 2011
The Cascade Locks City Council met in executive session Monday to talk about whom to bring to town to interview for the city administrator job.
The specifics must stay off the record, but the positive tenor should be noted, given the recent history of rancor within, and toward, Cascade Locks city government.
(The city currently has no city administrator in place, following the conclusion of interim administrator Rich Carson's contract July 8. Carson filled in after the February dismissal of former administrator Bernard Seeger.)
The executive session was part of the council meeting that came a day after City and Port of Cascade Locks officials greeted members of the David Thompson Brigade - a the canoe flotilla of U.S. and Canadian citizens who are paddling the same 1811 trade route explored by British cartographer David Thompson.
The Brigade marched with banners and bagpipes from their campsite on Thunder Island to the Sacagawea/Seaman statue at the Port building, where Mayor George Fischer and Port Commissioner Jessie Groves welcomed the voyageurs.
"We feel very involved with history in this community, and we welcome you here," Fischer told the Brigade.
It was a simple, but beautiful, ceremony witnessed by a handful of citizens and a number of visiting picnickers and Northwest Gem Show attendees at Marina Park.
Brigade leader Ross MacDonald presented both local leaders with ceremonial sashes like those worn by the canoe paddlers.
Such public displays are the fun part of an elected official's job. Then they must go into a room together and engage in the less enjoyable public process, one tinged with both tension and tedium.
On Monday, the members of council present displayed definite cooperation on choosing a new administrator, surely one of the more important decisions facing council members and Mayor George Fischer.
The names of finalists are public record, but details of how the council arrived at the list are what must remain privy to the mayor and council.
What matters is the spirit that prevailed: a willingness to listen and reconsider, after the council had reviewed the applicants' resumes and other documents and then completed the initial interviews, by telephone.
Based on a list of five names under consideration, there were differing opinions about who should make the cut, and why the members of council felt as they did.
The individuals' pros and cons, as seen by the elected city representatives, gained a thorough airing. While the council members mostly stayed true to their initial "takes" on the candidates, with every person in the room there was at least one case of acknowledging another's differing opinion, and proceeding with consensus if not unanimity.
Few of us will ever be in a position such as the one now before the council: hiring a professional to efficiently direct the management of a city, someone who will, with hope, remain in the community for five to 10 years.
What was clear from the closed-door discussion is that the council feels a strong desire to hire the best possible candidate to take on a formidable task: serving as lead appointed official for a city facing serious fiscal, organizational and infrastructure challenges.
Fittingly, at Fischer's elbow Monday night was the voyageurs' sash, a gift both ceremonial and practical. McDonald had explained that the sash is worn around the midriff to provide back support during the rigors of that particular work: paddling a canoe full of gear, sometimes in bad weather.
"We give these to you in recognition of the hard work you do every day," McDonald told Fischer and Groves, perhaps understanding the baggage and crosswinds that often confront anyone sitting in a boat and trying to figure out how to paddle together.