May 30, 2019

The Re-Birth of a City

Contact: Richard Carson, City Manager

Damascus, the little city that refused to die or more recently be euthanized by the Oregon legislature, took the next step in its resurrection tonight. The newly reinstated Damascus City Council appointed its first city manager. That would be me. I have always loved being a maverick when it comes to working in and around government in Oregon and Washington. I have some strong beliefs. I want to work for the city of Damascus because cities are the basic building blocks of the American democracy. I am an officer in a city of Portland neighborhood association that represents some 12,000 people (about the same population as Damascus). But our association has no power to represent the people who live here. The citizens of Damascus need a voice to represent them when dealing with neighboring cities, Clackamas County, Metro and the state.

The rebuilding of a city is no simple task and not one I take lightly. But I like a challenge. During the recession of 1980, I worked for the last Republican governor in Oregon as an economic development policy advisor. I took the phone call that resulted in the first Japanese manufacturing plant being built in America. While at Metro they asked me to help create the first solid waste management system, the first metropolitan greenspaces plan and the first regional land use plan. At Clark County, I oversaw the construction of 2,000 single family dwelling units a year, a 220-bed hospital and an amphitheater. As assistant city manager for the city of Oregon City, I took an empty city-owned industrial park and filled it with new industries. I also helped open the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. As the city administrator for the city of Cascade Locks, I was asked to do something unethical. So, I resigned and helped recall the mayor and city councilors who were involved. And when that city council tried to have me sanctioned, a state of Oregon employment referee told them I was right and they were wrong.

For the last 10 years I have been a consultant helping local governments in California, Oregon, Utah and Washington become more performance efficient and cost-effective. That means doing a complete assessment of the government’s functions. I also have focused my doctoral studies on the process of public-sector organizational change management. However, there are some interesting questions that need to be answered in the coming months that are very unique to what happened to the city of Damascus. For example, if the city didn’t dissolve in the election of 2016, then what happened to the $9 million in annual revenues? As the city’s chief Budget Officer, that will be part of my job. I need to a bit of forensic economic sleuthing about where the city’s property taxes, road funds, franchise fees, and revenue sharing are or went.

Being part of creating a new future for the city of Damascus is in my DNA. You see, I am the descendent of a guy named Kit Carson who helped Colonel John Fremont survey something called the Oregon Trail. So, my working again in Clackamas County is kind of a personal manifest destiny. It’s going to be another journey of discovery.


NOTE: News release issued on letter head of Richard H. Carson, Carson & Assciates, LLC.

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