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Dave Kanner is Ashland's new city administrator

Former Jackson County deputy administrator 'highly regarded,' but blunt style lost last job
 Posted: 2:00 AM February 17, 2012

Former Jackson County Deputy Administrator Dave Kanner has been appointed Ashland's new city administrator.

Mayor John Stromberg announced the appointment on Thursday. The City Council will vote on whether to confirm Kanner during its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

If confirmed, Kanner will begin work in Ashland on Feb. 27, city officials said.

Kanner was deputy administrator in Jackson County from 2000 to 2006, when he became administrator for Deschutes County.

In August 2011, Kanner was fired from that job by the commissioners on a 2-1 vote.

Kanner was praised in employee evaluations for his fiscal management, honesty and integrity, but he was faulted for not having enough positive interactions with county employees, the Bend Bulletin newspaper reported in September 2011 after obtaining evaluations dating back to 2008.

A union representing county employees also accused Kanner of being condescending and disrespectful during heated bargaining negotiations over a new contract for employees, the Bulletin reported soon after Kanner was fired.

In a telephone interview with the Daily Tidings on Thursday, Kanner said one of the Deschutes County commissioners expected his personality to exactly mirror her own.

"I think she wanted someone whose idea of leadership is smiling and patting people on the head and saying, 'I appreciate the job you're doing.' That is superficial leadership," Kanner said.

Kanner said his leadership style is to model honest, ethical behavior at all times and to demonstrate integrity.

Kanner's management style drew criticism from Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney, who said she wanted Kanner to deliver messages in a more positive manner. Meanwhile, county department heads said Kanner was willing to present unpopular ideas to commissioners if he believed they were in the best interests of the county, the Bulletin reported after its review of Kanner's employee evaluations.

Kanner told the Daily Tidings he believes in engaging everyone within an organization and communicating to them how they fit in with the organization's vision. He said he is completely open with people.

"I believe in entrusting and empowering, not trying to micromanage," he said. "I assume people are doing good work. If I encounter problems, then it's time for a conversation on how to do better."

As for whether he can fit in with Ashland's political culture — which encourages dialogue and a thorough airing of concerns before decisions are made — Kanner said he is a good match.

"It's very similar to what we tried in Deschutes County. No leader accomplishes anything alone. If it takes a while to make a decision, that's fine," he said. "The important thing is there's buy-in on a decision and it's a decision that's made with full and complete information."

Stromberg said the city did an extensive check of Kanner's background and found no problems.

Stromberg said various people in Deschutes County had different perspectives on Kanner's personality, but almost any person would garner mixed reviews.

"He is highly regarded, even by people who didn't particularly get along with him, for his understanding and experience and skill as a public sector manager," Stromberg said.

Stromberg said it's not uncommon for administrators in rural counties governed by only three commissioners to suddenly get fired.

"It's part of the job," he said. "It seemed like a mismatch between himself and two of the three county commissioners. It only takes one person and one other person who goes along with that person and you're out."

Ashland's structure is more stable since the mayor can hire and fire city administrators, but only after a vote of the six-member City Council, Stromberg said.

"From what I saw of him, he's a good fit for Ashland — maybe even more so than Deschutes County. He's a very bright, articulate person and he's very personable," Stromberg said.

Stromberg said he, councilors and department heads all felt Kanner was a highly desirable candidate with a wealth of knowledge about complex issues.

Kanner said he is excited about the city administrator job, for which he applied in 2006, when Martha Bennett was chosen. Bennett left in October to become chief operating officer at Portland Metro.

"I've lived in Oregon for 32 years, and I've always viewed Ashland as the premier place to live and work because of the cultural and recreational amenities and the well-educated and smart populace," Kanner said. "Ashland has a reputation for embracing out-of-the-box thinking."

He said city government is a well-run organization.

"It has a very high-caliber staff. They are people who want to be there and work there," Kanner said.

In January, Kanner visited Ashland with five other finalists for the city administrator post. The finalists met city staff, toured Ashland and underwent interviews with panels of local officials and citizens.

Kanner was also one of five finalists for the job of assistant city manager in Bend. That position has not yet been filled, according to the Bulletin.

Kanner sat in on an Ashland City Council goal-setting session this month and said he believes Ashland has an outstanding council.

Kanner received a bachelor's degree in communications from Carnegie Mellon University and completed 45 credits of a master's degree in public administration at Portland State University, according to his resumé.

Before coming to Jackson County in 2000, Kanner served as assistant city manager in Wilsonville and as a senior public affairs specialist for Portland Metro.

The advertised pay for the Ashland city administrator job is in the $130,000 to $139,000 range, with benefits that include health insurance and a retirement plan.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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