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It's show time for Sjothun

A unanimous Medford City Council on Thursday approved Brian Sjothun as the new city manager, following a sometimes contentious, 15-month search punctuated by a veto from Mayor Gary Wheeler over the previous nominee.

"It sure did take a long time to get here," Councilor Kevin Stine said. "I look forward to Mr. Sjothun being here for a long time, and a long time after I'm gone."

Sjothun, 53, became the city's recreation superintendent in March 2004 and was named Parks and Recreation director in August 2004.

"I'm really looking forward to this," Sjothun said. "I want to thank the mayor, the City Council and all of you for entrusting me with a huge, huge job. I have a great passion and love for Medford. This is our home, and I'm really looking forward to spending the next 10 or 11 years up here."

Taking his seat at the city manager's place at the dais surrounded by councilors, Sjothun gave a shout out to his wife René, who also works at the city: "You're the one who told me, 'Hey, you can do this,' so when I come home very frustrated, I'll tell you so."

As parks director, Sjothun had a salary of $118,500, which will increase to $152,000 as city manager, slightly more than the $145,008 his predecessor, Eric Swanson, received. Sjothun also will receive a $500-a-month vehicle allowance. The contract gives him the option to return to his existing parks director position within nine months if the job doesn't work out.

As part of its search for a new city manager, the city paid consulting firm Waters and Company of Texas $24,500 to vet candidates and help in the selection process.

Rich Rosenthal, Parks and Recreation assistant director, will take over as interim head of Parks and Recreation.

Seven members of the council were present Thursday for the vote, with Councilor Daniel Bunn and Mayor Gary Wheeler absent.

Council President Dick Gordon, who replaced Wheeler Thursday, said the council, including those not present, all supported Sjothun as city manager.

"He was a very credible candidate," Gordon said. "He certainly has a lot of experience with the city of Medford and with Parks and Recreation."

Councilor Eli Matthews said, "I believe Mr. Sjothun has the skills to be a great city manager."

Even though Sjothun was not among three finalists the council considered two months ago, Councilor Michael Zarosinski said he was still one of the top contenders.

He said the selection of the three finalists was somewhat arbitrary, and the city was offered a number of good candidates.

"We certainly found the right guy to guide this city," he said.

Councilor Chris Corcoran, who is not running for re-election this year, said Sjothun has done a tremendous job as Parks and Recreation director.

During his time with Parks and Recreation, Sjothun has overseen the creation of new city parks and the construction of U.S. Cellular Community Park in south Medford

"I look forward to providing support to him to the end of the year and to the end of my term," he said.

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

Brian Sjothun