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Colleagues, council members reflect on Scott Lazenby's six-year tenure as city manager

PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Former City Manager Scott Lazenby, who retired July 1, looks out on the demolition at the site of the new City Hall — a project he helped usher in — from his office windowLake Oswego City Manager Scott Lazenby retired this week after six years heading the City as its chief administrator, capping a career of more than four decades in public service.

Moving from one end of Clackamas County, as the City Manager of Sandy, to the other, Lazenby was attracted to Lake Oswego in 2013 for two main reasons: the first being he knew it was a great place to live, work and play; the second being the quality of the City's staff.

"Coming to Lake Oswego, the quality of the staff has just been, to me, outstanding. I kind of pinch myself when I see our staff doing a council presentation or something like that. They're just so good," he said.

Operating with a sort of "player-coach" mentality, Lazenby didn't even keep a desk in his office throughout his tenure as City Manager. Rather, he had a round table with chairs where staffers would meet, pitch their ideas, update him on the work they were doing and have discussions on which direction to lead the city in on new, groundbreaking projects.

From a 30,000-foot level, Lazenby has managed and shaped many projects, both public and private, that have brought new value to Lake Oswego. Those include the completion of the new Operations and Maintenance Center on Pilkington Road, The Windward project in downtown, the West End building on Kruse Way and the finalization of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership.

He also helped get several projects off the ground which he will hand over to his successor, former Metro Chief Operating Officer Martha Bennett — who takes over Aug. 19 with Deputy City Manager Megan Phelan filling in until then — including the Tryon Creek Wastewater Plant and Foothills redevelopment, the Boones Ferry Road redevelopment, Mercantile Village, North Anchor redevelopment, the new City Hall and a slew of street and public works projects expected to take place over the next few years.

"(This) really is a group effort. No one individual can take credit for it. I think what we have contributed, as staff, is to give the City Council options, ways that the council can then act on things and move forward," Lazenby said.

Colleagues and members of the City Council will remember Lazenby's legacy as one of finding creative solutions, of innovating in a way that moved bureaucracy forward and working to improve the city in meaningful ways.

"Scott believes that people are capable of breathtaking achievements when given the tools, freedom and support," said Anthony Hooper, Public Works Director and Deputy City Manager.

"He embodies a leadership style that focuses on hiring the right people, promoting from within, creating an audacious vision, fostering a growth-mindset culture, and then letting everyone achieve victories with complete autonomy. He is a mentor to countless employees, peers, councilors and community members. In so many ways, his legacy is that he is a cultivator of people."

The City's Redevelopment Manager Sid Sin said he valued Lazenby's ability to approach issues with a different perspective, being able to simplify a complex problem, boil it down to the fundamental question and apply practical solutions.

City Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff said what she appreciated most was his ability to come up with ways around an apparent impasse.

"I have an extremely high opinion of Scott — he may have been one of the greatest City Managers we've had in Lake Oswego. My biggest disappointment is he's leaving us," said Skip O'Neill, City Councilor. "He's empowered staff to make decisions, which for us, as council, has been an extreme positive."

For Mayor Kent Studebaker, Lazenby's tenure was marked by his progressive, yet humble nature.

"He was very open to all sorts of suggestions, very innovative and kept us apprised of new developments in management and city operations, but at the same time, he was not so taken by his own ego that he wouldn't do as council asked him and in the best way possible," Studebaker said. "He was tremendous with the City staff, and helped them to develop their strengths while feeling appreciated. We're going to miss him."

Lazenby said he and his wife will continue to reside in Lake Oswego. When he's not writing a new novel or visiting his daughter and her family in Kelowna, B.C., you might find him perusing the LO Farmers' Market. He plans to stay involved locally with groups like Rotary International, but he's looking forward to driving past a pothole on a local road and thinking, "that's someone else's problem now."

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