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Jim Eisenhard was 'one of the good guys'

The former Medford planning director died Saturday of a heart attack while vacationing in the Caribbean

The heart-attack death of former Medford Planning Director Jim Eisenhard over the weekend left friends and colleagues saddened.

He'll be missed by a lot of people, said Andy Anderson, former Medford city manager. He's the last person I would ever expect to die of a heart attack.

Eisenhard, 61, and his wife, Barbara Rumer, were vacationing on the Caribbean island of Tobago when he suffered a heart attack late Saturday. The couple had moved to Bend in recent years. Attempts to reach his wife in Tobago have been unsuccessful.

He's the one who introduced me to mountains and mountaineering, said Anderson, now Bend's city manager, who has climbed Mount Whitney and Mount Hood with Eisenhard.

Hook up with Jim and you're on an adventure.

— Eisenhard retired in 2000 after 25 years with the Planning Department, 21 of them as planning director.

According to Medford planning staff members, Eisenhard prepared Medford's first comprehensive plan, the first recognized in the state, and oversaw the development of Medford's first urban growth boundary. He oversaw the adoption of the new Land Development Code in 1987 and was instrumental in planning for Medford's 1,000-acre Southeast Plan, a largely residential development.

Before coming to Medford in 1975, Eisenhard worked at the Orange County, Calif. Planning Department. He held a bachelor's degree in forest resource management and a master's degree in ecology from Pennsylvania State University. Eisenhard served in the U.S. Army and also had worked as a resource specialist in forest engineering for the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management.

Eisenhard began climbing while in college at Penn State. He climbed mountains all over the world, including Orizba and Popocatepetl in Mexico, Mount Blanc in Europe and the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.

He was the kind of guy who only knew one speed, and that was fast, said long-time friend Ty Hisatomi, development director for the Mount Ashland ski area. Hisatomi and his wife, Lauren, were on a rock-climbing trip in Yosemite in August with Eisenhard and Rumer.

He just had a way of making all his friends feel wonderful and comfortable, Hisatomi said. He instilled confidence in people. He led us up some pretty serious granite walls in Yosemite. You were more confident because you were with him.

He didn't want to sit around and wait for things to happen, he made them happen, he said, adding, We all kind of lived vicariously through him a little bit.

Hisatomi also admired Eisenhard's priorities.

He'd kind of kick you in the butt a bit for getting too serious about work, he said with a laugh.

Jim Maize, a Medford city planner, also recalled an ambitious adventurer in Eisenhard.

He probably compressed a couple of lifetimes into his short lifetime, he said.

He said Eisenhard was a natural leader.

He had a tremendous understanding of what the state land use goals meant and how they could be translated into local policy, he said. Having him leave the department was a difficult time for the city.

Anderson said as a planner Eisenhard was known for being even-handed.

He tried to make sure that the development and the growth we had was the best we could have. He really knew his business and knew it well.

He'll be missed by many.

Hisatomi agreed.

He was one of the good guys, and he left us too early.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail Jim Eisenhard was ?one of the good guys?"mlanders@mailtribune.com.