CENTRAL POINT — Just days after his 10-year anniversary as city administrator, Phil Messina is setting out for bigger challenges in a much smaller place: Ridgefield, Wash.

CENTRAL POINT — Just days after his 10-year anniversary as city administrator, Phil Messina is setting out for bigger challenges in a much smaller place: Ridgefield, Wash.

Messina will become city manager of the 4,800-resident town on Oct. 22.

"After 10 years, I think I've pretty well worn out my welcome here," Messina said with a laugh.

When he came to Central Point from North Bend on Sept. 12, 2002, Central Point's population was 12,000. It has since grown to 17,000.

Messina noted that the recession and real estate market crash had brought changes for city managers around the country.

"I've always heard (a city administrator's tenure) is three to five years on average, but I think the recession has made that a little longer," Messina said. "Plus it's hard to be mobile with the real estate market the way it's been. I've had a great time here, but I've done everything I set out to do, so it's time for new challenges."

Messina said he was excited to move to a small town and help it realize its growth potential.

Messina said he was attracted to Ridgefield because of its plans for growth into some 4,000 acres of undeveloped land inside city limits. He started his career in Washington and still has family there, he said.

"They have a small and young staff, and the City Council there wants someone a little more seasoned," Messina said.

A city manager for nearly three decades, Messina arrived in Central Point as residents were protesting a Walmart Supercenter and as development reached records highs. He helped shepherd the city through the economic downturn and its record lows in development, watched neighborhoods grow and assisted with Regional Problem Solving, a 10-year process to prepare Jackson County for future population growth.

The city opened a new annex under Messina's watch and saw a new library built on the same complex.

"Even through the dark times, 2008 to 2011, we managed to get things done," Messina said, listing favorite projects as Don Jones Park and the city skateboard park near Central Point Elementary.

"I think the staff development I've seen is what I'm the most proud of. I saw some up-and-comers and gave them a chance to do projects and really shine. I think that's been my proudest accomplishment."

Of unfinished business, Messina expressed disappointment in not seeing a community center built.

"The plan's still on the shelf. When development picks up a little better, I'd really like to hear that they got their community center built," he said.

City Recorder Deanna Casey said Messina's presence would be missed at City Hall.

"We know he is looking forward to new challenges and opportunities," Casey said. "Most city managers turn over after a couple of years, looking for new challenges. We have been blessed that he stayed for 10 years.

"Phil has created a great team here at the city of Central Point and although we will be sad to see him go, the city will still be a great place to live and work because he has mentored us into great employees."

Mayor Hank Williams acknowledged that a full decade was "a pretty long time" for a city administrator.

"I think (the new job) is just what he wanted," Williams said.

"It's time for him, from his career standpoint, but he was never under any pressure from us to leave. He did a lot of positive things for Central Point and he left us in real good shape."

Messina's last day with the city is Oct. 12.

Williams said officials will wait until after the November election to recruit a new city administrator. Assistant City Administrator Chris Clayton will fill in until a replacement is hired.

Williams added, "We've got five candidates vying for two (council) positions, so I reckon we'll see some changes on the council. And we've got Chris to keep us going until we decide what to do."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com