New city manager

Jay Henry, Central Point, meets with the community at a city manager candidate open house at Four Rivers Cultural Center in June. Henry was offered the position as city manager, and Ontario officials anticipate receiving the signed agreement today.

ONTARIO — Ontario city officials anticipate receiving a signed contract today for the person offered the city manager’s position.

The Ontario City Council decided to offer the position to Jay Henry, the former city manager of Talent, Ore., council President Norm Crume said Monday. Crume was speaking for Mayor Joe Dominick, who is out of town.

He said, as of Monday, the city had not received a signed agreement from Henry, but, if everything goes according to plan, Henry, Central Point, will start working for the city Monday. He replaces former City Manager Henry Lawrence.

The City Council hired Prothman Company, a consulting firm, to conduct the city manager’s search. Out of 33 applications, Prothman brought 10 names to the council, with five considered strong candidates. Two of those five dropped out and the city’s hiring committee interviewed three final candidates for the position: Henry, Jeff Fiegenschuh, Princeton, Ill., and Jim Payne, Rio Rancho, N.M. Crume said the council initially began discussions with Fiegenschuh, but he was no longer interested in the position.

Crume said it was the City Council’s unanimous consensus to offer the position to Henry.

“He seems like he is a good fit,” Crume said.

Crume said Henry’s wife, an internal medicine physician, is also moving to Ontario, and he believes she has been hired at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario.

Crume said Henry is ideal because he is familiar with Ontario, having attended Treasure Valley Community College, he knows Oregon and has been a city manager in Oregon.

“He doesn’t have to go to college, so to speak, to step into it and start working,” Crume said.

Before becoming a city manager, Henry worked in public works and community development for Klamath County and attended Marylhurst University to obtain his masters of business administration and also attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In 2007, Henry was hired as the first city manager of Polson, Mont., but he and his wife, Evelyn, moved back to Oregon after their 19-year-old son died. Henry was the city manager for Talent from 2008 to 2011, but his contract was not renewed under tense circumstances. According to June 4 article in the Ashland Daily Tidings, Henry was accused by a council member of violating his contract, and an elections complaint and a civil rights complaint were filed against Henry. Henry and city officials, however, worked out their differences, and Talent Mayor William Cecil said in a Dec. 13 PRNewswire story posted on Oregon Live.com, “Mr. Henry’s leadership skills, technical competence and ethical foundation were never in question.”

According to an article published on the Portland Tribune website in January of this year, Henry, however, was named in a $1.9 million lawsuit in which former city employee Cheryl Nicolay who claimed Henry fired her “after their working relationship bogged down following a contentious labor negotiation.”

Crume said, during the interview process, Henry explained the circumstances behind his departure from Talent. He said, according to Henry, when he was hired in Talent, he dismissed a long-time city employee whom he felt was not doing her job properly, and that employee had ties with community members who were later elected to the City Council and then chose to not renew his contract.

Crume said he was satisfied with Henry’s explanation.

“I think, with being on the City Council and seeing how that stuff works first hand, I can sure sympathize with that type of an issue,” he said. “Being a city manager is an extremely political position.”

He said Henry will be paid $95,000 a year base salary, which is similar to Lawrence’s starting salary as city manager.

Ontario City Councilman David Sullivan said he was pleased Henry was selected as city manager, adding Henry interviewed well, he understands budgeting and personnel issues very well and he also has a network with other city managers in Oregon, which Sullivan said is important.

“I think he’s just a great candidate, and we’re happy to have him,” Sullivan said.

Jessica Keller is the news editor at the Argus Observer. She can be reached at (541) 823-4822 or by emailing jessicak@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com

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