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New Gold Hill city manager taking care of the basics

GOLD HILL — After nearly a month at the helm, newly hired city manager Elise Smurzynski is focused on reducing risk for the once-embattled town and taking things one day at a time.

For the past decade, the all-volunteer City Council has struggled with issues ranging from law enforcement troubles to concerns over providing water to its small population.

The first manager in recent memory, the 55-year-old former Shady Cove city administrator came on board in mid-November, just weeks after a series of executive sessions regarding public works management and a nearly yearlong process of trying to recruit a city manager.

Initially, Smurzynski was hired on an interim basis to help the city find a suitable manager. After a chosen candidate declined the position, the city approached Smurzynski about the job.

Councilwoman Christine Alford said city officials were, at the time, more than skeptical she would consider the position

"Who'd of thought we could even have got Elise Smurzynski? We didn't."

Alford said the addition of a full-time manager has provided a "huge feeling of relief" for council members.

"I just feel that we've made a monumental effort to end the decades and decades of confusion that has defined our City Hall," Alford said.

Smurzynski's said her specialty, risk management, was an ideal match for the small town.

For years, council members have attempted to tackle day-to-day management without a full-time administrator.

Council members over much of the past year have tabled most significant issues, awaiting the city's hiring of a manager, including contract patrols with the county sheriff's department and a proposed water rate increase.

In her first month, Smurzynski said, she has focused on "just the basics."

"At this moment, probably the biggest deal is updating health and safety programs to make things run more smoothly for the city," she noted.

"How to fill out forms properly, having the right forms, insurance cards in our cars, procedural stuff ... ."

She added, "The city had staff that knows what they're doing but it is vey different when you have one person coordinating a bunch of the pieces and putting them all together so they work."

Councilwoman Donna Silva said she was "not missing the constant phone calls" from city staff with issues in need of resolving.

"She takes care of the day-to-day stuff so I don't get any more of those phone calls I used to get," Silva said.

Smurzynski said she came to the city for a new challenge and found no major surprises.

"Not that I had specific expectations but I was aware that, just like any city that hadn't had a manager before, you need some help in your long-term planning and dealing with short-term stuff on your plate that's right here, right now," she said.

After the new calendar year begins, Smurzynski said the city would likely revisit water rates and law enforcement needs.

For now, a "one day at a time" approach is setting a new pace for the once-embattled town.

"Everything in the world pretty much boils down to managing g risk. It's a case of, 'Do I get new tires on my car or wait until they go on sale?' " Smurzynski said.

"Well, do I have enough tread or can I wait? The city's infrastructure is a concern. There's a revenue crunch and not the population to fund what bigger cities would have. We just tackle one thing at a time and take it one day at a time."

Elise Smurzynski is taking on the issues in Gold Hill “one day at a time” as she enters her second month as city manager for the small Jackson County town. - Bob Pennell