A City of Oregon personnel change earlier this year may lead to a permanent change in government style.
A committee has been assembled to look into Oregon changing to a city manager style with current City Administrator Darin DeHaan taking the position. DeHaan moved to that role from police chief when former City Clerk Charlene Ruthe retired.
DeHaan and new City Clerk Cheryl Hilton have been splitting Ruthe’s old responsibilities and some new ones.
The announcement of the committee assembly was made at the city council’s Oct. 27 meeting when community member Roger Cain urged the city to look into the change.
“The one thing to look at is how the mayor and council set this up, a lot of those duties I have already,” DeHaan said. “Decisions, projects, working with department heads. And it continues to develop. I love this community and would take any opportunity in a leadership role. If that’s what they want, I’d love to do it.”
DeHaan said he had some anxiety when he moved to city administrator and has felt great since after making an impact early on. Being city manager would give him more duties and authority to run the city’s daily operations.
DeHaan said Galena (city administrator) and Morrison (city manager) are cities of similar size to Oregon that demonstrate that those styles can work at its level of population.
DeHaan said he has considered that the change would come with more responsibility and criticism, both of which he’s used to after his years as police chief.
“Really I never thought it would happen after 25 years being set in my ways,” DeHaan said. “Having education and connections, I was interested. I’m very glad for the opportunity.”
Mayor Ken Williams said the city started thinking about changing to a city manager style “maybe two years ago.” It was never possible until Ruthe’s retirement and DeHaan’s move to administrator due to not having to pay additional salaries.
Williams is unsure how long the committee will take to make a recommendation on a potential change. A referendum would follow.
“From watching what Dixon did, they put theirs on a referendum on the ballot the same time they had council elections,” Williams said. “It might be on the ballot when we elect new council members and a mayor. That election would be in Feb. 2022.”
Dixon City Manager Danny Langloss Jr. has agreed to speak with Oregon leaders about what the change was like for his city.
Williams said DeHaan currently has 80 percent or more if city manager’s responsibilities and the change would relieve the burden on commissioners by having them being chairpeople on committees rather than being fully in charge of their departments.
“I’m not against it personally,” Williams said. “I think our city is at a point where it could be very helpful. If it provides more day-to-day continuity. It would still rest with a legislative body. The city manager would run the day-to-day. Seeing how well his last transition occurred, it was very smooth. He did a lot of additional things.”