Elliott on to the unknown
Acting city manager writes his former position out of the budget and steps down
The past 21 months have been nothing short of intense for Lee Elliott. In a whirlwind decision to move to the Pacific Northwest, Elliott was hired as assistant city manager, taking over as city manager a quick 10 months later amid a scandal and Dan Danicic resigning. He faced numerous administration changes, local tragedies and a struggling budget, but hes most proud of the improved teamwork from city staff.
We had a very good department, but not a very good team, he said. There were a lot of silos in the organization and not much teamwork. Its weird to say that, but thats one of the most proud things I have.
At 39, and divorced with two dogs, Elliott isnt known for staying in one place for too long.
I like change, I like diversity. Its ingrained in my core, every two years I pretty much move, he said. Its quality not high quantity, so its tough.
But he said he feels hes gained a lot from his stint in Newberg, both professionally and personally.
The past few weeks Ive finally been able to decompress and start reflecting. It has been a lot of stuff, as were talking with the new city manager (Jaque Betz), talking with department heads, starting to say good bye, it was an intensive 21 months, Elliott said. I got my two years worth in Oregon, Ill tell you that.
Despite what he said hell take away professionally, theres still more he wishes he could have done for the city.
Weve been so enthralled in keeping things together and dealing with the challenges that needed to be addressed, I really wish I could be here longer with the general fund and seeing it get turned around, he said. Weve begun the process, but youre still about two to three years away from recovery.
After passing over the reins, he said he feels like the father figure of the organization.
Its been cool to see us grow, Elliott said. People here care about community development and that has been an awesome experience.
He noted its been impressive how much people care in general.
You got a great group of people here, said an emotional Elliott. Ive worked and consulted in probably 15 cities, Ive never seen a group this highly skilled people who care this much about the place. Its not just a job.
The future for Elliott is unclear. He said its not often someone writes themselves out of the budget, but hes going to take the opportunity to volunteer for a few months back home in Texarkana, assisting the city with clean-up from a recent tornado.
After 15 years in city government, Ive achieved everything Id say I wanted to, he said. (I need to) figure out if Im going back into the public sector or finance in the private sector. The public sectors been fun but if I can help people financially, I truly feel like Im helping. I think Ive helped people, but just not as much. My first job was a planning director. Ive been at the executive level from the get-go. The higher up you go, the less you get to help people. I miss that right now.
Regardless of what the future holds for Elliott, theres one point he wanted to make exceedingly clear: hes proud of the people hes spent the past two years with and all they accomplished.
Im very proud of what they did, not me, but what they did, he said. This place, it wasnt me it was the organization, it was the elected officials, it was everybody, they rallied.
Elliotts last day with the city is June 30, when his position will no longer be funded in the new city budget.