Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman is here to stay.
That had city councilors breathing a little easier Monday after they conducted his five-year review and asked him specifically about his plans for retirement.
Milliman joined the city in 2007 and will have 40 years of local government work under his belt in January. And he had been openly talking about retiring.
“That has prompted questions,” he said. “Also, when I was originally hired, I committed to five years with the city. But I do not have a retirement date. The two topics are not related. I am happy to have been in this kind of work for 40 years and recognized for that.”
He also noted that, at 63, he is a few years shy of Medicare eligibility.
Milliman reassured councilors during an executive session that he was willing to help with the transition needed since the city has consolidated management within its ranks, and will assist in selecting a new city manager when the time comes.
“I knew he wasn’t going to leave right away,” said Councilor Dave Gordon. “And I knew he and his wife like it here. I also wasn’t concerned that he would not be involved in helping find the right person to replace him.”
Mayor Ron Hedenskog and councilors Brent Hodges and Jake Pieper could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Tight budgetary times have hit the city, requiring everyone to save money where they can.
With the retirement of planning director Dianne Morris, the Planning and Public Works departments were merged into the department of Public Works and Development Services, with public works director Loree Pryce taking over there.
The second change will take place in January, when Fire Chief Bill Sharp retires. Police Chief Chris Wallace will take over both departments as director of Public Safety.
“The challenge will be the understanding by the public of who’s responsible for what functions, and working with employees and volunteers to gain a new understanding of how their departments are managed,” Milliman said.
New policies and procedures are sure to be a part of the changes, he said, adding that he will work with the two new departments to clarify reasons for changes and what any new expectations will be.
“It’ll be a change; there will be new relationships to develop,” Milliman said. “In many respects, there will be improved service through better coordination.”
City councilors gave him a glowing review during executive session.
“I look back at my eight years as a city councilmember, and I think one of the signature accomplishments I’ve been involved with was the interview and making the decision to hire Gary,” Gordon said. “We’ve had a few in my tenure, and he’s the best I’ve seen.”
The city has seen several city managers come and go over the years.
“Some were interim, some left for family issues,” Gordon said. “That’s the challenge we’re faced with, much less the economic challenges that the country’s faced with. Gary has done a much better job at addressing those challenges.”
“I’ve only been on council for three weeks, but I think he’s doing a good job,” said Councilor Kelly McClain. “He’s really professional and easy to work with. He’s very well qualified, especially for a town this size.”
Milliman has a long history in the public realm – and an equally long list of accomplishments in Brookings.
Here, he has had all city employees trained for emergency situations, overseen construction of a new reservoir and communications tower and secured grant money for an Emergency Operating Center.
He oversaw the implementation of the first phase of the downtown improvement plan, including reconstructing 11 blocks of streets, installing drainage systems and street lights and replacing old water and sewer mains.
Additionally, he was in charge of the expansion of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority to include local agencies and securing funds to assist with the Del Norte County Airport terminal replacement project – a job that required overcoming the obstacles involved in coordinating two counties, two cities and two tribal governments in two states.
He also helped facilitate the development of the Southwestern Oregon Community College Curry Campus, and he made changes to the wastewater sludge process that saved the city $4 million in construction costs and reduced annual operating costs by $200,000.
Other highlights include: five years of balanced budgets, management stability, securing the city’s long-term water rights on the Chetco River; negotiating purchase of public access to Mill Beach and the real estate transaction that brought Bi-Mart to Brookings and motivating staff to do more with less.
Also, negotiating the purchase of a public works maintenance yard, securing approval of the Constitution Way intersection reconstruction project; and facilitating an atmosphere where department managers were encouraged to pursue grants for various projects.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done and challenges to be overcome,” said Councilor Jake Pieper. “As long as Gary’s willing to help with those I’m happy to have him on.”