Who will it be?
After meeting behind closed doors with the Medford City Council, three candidates for the city manager position got their chance to introduce themselves to the public Tuesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, only a few members of the public showed up at a meet-and-greet at the Carnegie library, though it was well attended by councilors and city staff.
The candidates are Jon Amundson, assistant city manager in Richland, Wash.; Rob Patridge, Klamath County district attorney and a former state representative from Medford; and James Thompson, retired city manager in Casa Grande, Ariz.
The council has held meetings in executive sessions with the finalists in an effort to fill the position after former City Manager Eric Swanson was fired last year.
Each of the candidates seemed eager to take on the new assignment, even after long interviews and lots of questions.
“My impressions of Medford are wonderful,” Amundson said. “There are a lot of similarities between Medford and the tri-cities area of Washington.”
Medford is a little smaller than Richland, but its staff size is about the same and economic development is important to both, he said.
Amundson said he’s heard a lot from the council about the efforts to revitalize the downtown as well as the years of urban renewal work in Medford.
He said it's sometimes difficult to see whether a revitalization effort is working, and sometimes it takes a while for cities to see those efforts attract investments from the private sector.
“You need to have the faith and fortitude to see it through,” he said.
Amundson said his city, which is more conservative than the western part of Washington, has had similar struggles with marijuana legalization. The city has a moratorium on marijuana businesses, he said.
Thompson said he was struck by the similarity between the interviews by the City Council and city staff.
“There was a consistency to the questions from the department directors and the councilors,” he said.
Thompson said he saw many similarities between Medford and Casa Grande, including rapid growth and difficulties associated with a high rate of poverty. At the same time, both cities are the economic and employment hub of their respective counties, he said.
Casa Grande also has a sizable population of senior citizens, but has more ethnic diversity and also has immigration issues, Thompson said.
“I enjoyed the community,” Thompson said. “It has great opportunities and a great potential now and into the future.”
Patridge has been a Medford resident for many years and previously served on the City Council for two years starting in 1995 before becoming a state representative.
“I am very excited because I live here in Medford, to be a finalist and to have this opportunity to continue to serve the city that I love,” he said.
He said he helped bring some of the amenities that the city enjoys, including the Santo Community Center, and has been involved in youth activities over the years.
When Patridge was a city councilor about 20 years ago, he said he never even thought that he might one day want to become a city manager.
“I would like an opportunity to continue to move our city forward,” he said.
The council has not set a date for a final decision.