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Mayor says he'll veto Patridge selection

Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler said Friday he will veto the council's decision to hire Rob Patridge as city manager.

Wheeler made the announcement prior to the council's 5-3 vote on the second reading of the ordinance to hire Patridge, a longtime local resident and current Klamath Falls district attorney.

"At this point I will veto this ordinance," Wheeler said. It would be Wheeler's first veto in his 12 years of office, he said.

He said Patridge would have a steep learning curve to overcome because he doesn't have the kind of experience needed to manage a city with more than 400 employees.

"Mr. Patridge really brings nothing new to our city," Wheeler said. "Mr. Patridge has never managed anything of this size."

Councilors Tim Jackle, Eli Matthews, Dick Gordon, Mike Zarosinski and Chris Corcoran voted in favor of Patridge. Councilors Clay Bearnson, Kevin Stine and Daniel Bunn voted against the hire.

The council will reconvene at a later date in an attempt to overturn the veto, which would require a 6-2 vote. Wheeler has 10 days to veto the ordinance. 

Wheeler said he would like all councilors present when the vote is taken to overturn his veto.

In a phone conversation following the Friday vote, Patridge said he was confused by Wheeler's veto plans because the mayor had suggested during an eye appointment on March 3 that he consider applying for the position. Wheeler is an optometrist.

"He told me I would be a competitive candidate," Patridge said. He said Wheeler brought it up after Patridge said during the appointment he had been driving for three years to and from his Klamath Falls office to his Medford home. 

Wheeler said he has a different recollection of the conversation with Patridge and doesn't believe he used the words "competitive candidate."

"I said, 'You can apply, anybody can apply,' " he said. Wheeler said he recalls having more of a general conversation, as he does with many of his patients. During the conversation, the subject of the city manager search came up, Wheeler said.

Patridge said he's received a lot of support from regular citizens and former city leaders.

"I'm feeling enthusiastic about taking the position of Medford city manager," he said. "I'm humbled by the outpouring of support from the majority of the Medford City Council."

Patridge wasn't the council's first choice for city manager. The position was first offered to Jim Thompson, retired city manager of Casa Grande, Ariz. Thompson, after meeting with the council for a second round of interviews, withdrew his candidacy.

A majority of the council supported Thompson, but Councilor Tim Jackle said Thompson wasn't his pick for city manager.

"Rob was my pick," he said. "I think he (Thompson) was very smart, but we need a collaborator."

Patridge has received a letter of support from eight former councilors and also two other councilors spoke up for him at the council meeting Thursday. Representatives of both the city police and firefighter unions also supported Patridge.

Medford resident John Howard, who worked with Patridge at Rep. Greg Walden's Medford office, told the council Friday that Patridge is "a tremendous manager of all kinds of things going on."

He said Patridge takes on a challenge, assesses it and then takes positive action.

Bryan Baumgartner, president of the Medford Professional Firefighters Local 1431, told the council to hire Patridge rather than spending considerable time to find another replacement.

"The city manager position needs to be filled permanently," he said. 

Mark Patterson, vice president of the Police Association, said he's known Patridge for 22 years.

"I'm glad to see he's going for this position now," he said.

 Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Rob Patridge
Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler, right, tells the City Council Friday he will veto the appointment of Rob Patridge as city manager. At left is Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch