The Transition with Joe Gall, City of Sherwood

Posted on December 4, 2012

While there are many attributes ELGL appreciates about Joe Gall, what we appreciate most is you will never hear “I’m too busy” as an excuse from Joe. We often wonder how he has time for everything and we concluded he probably has a dirty room at home. Other than that, we hope others in local government will model Joe’s work ethic and ability to produce results. Joe is truly committed to promoting the local government profession which is espoused through his leadership roles in OCCMA and ICMA. A number of ELGL members have directly benefited from Joe’s commitment to mentoring the next generation.

The Transition with Joe Gall


Sherwood City Manager

What were the three deciding factors in accepting the city manager position in Sherwood? Related link: Sherwood picks Joseph Gall for city manager.

Great question – I loved my job in Fairview!  It is a great little community, wonderful staff and solid City Council.  But after 6 years, the Sherwood opportunity was too much to pass up throwing my hat into the ring.  After going through the interview process, there were many factors why I accepted the position.

    • First, Sherwood is a natural next step in my career – the city is approximately twice as big as Fairview and the organization is a little more than twice the size.  It is proving to be a good jump in complexity and responsibility.
    • Second, my research into the strength of the staff in the organization was very positive and after five months, that research has proven to be quite true.  I have inherited a great staff here from previous City Managers Jim Patterson and Ross Schultz. 
    • Third, as a parent of two young children, Sherwood just seemed like a wonderful community to raise my kids.  With one of the best school systems in Oregon and lots of families living here, it seemed like a natural fit for my family.  Of course, there were many other reasons, but you only asked for three!

Tell us honestly did you make the move from Fairview to Sherwood so you could wear the Bowman jacket.

Haha – yes, I have quickly added Sherwood High School swag to my closet.  With only one high school in town, Friday Nights Lights certainly exists here in town.  As I write this response, I look forward to watching the Sherwood Bowmen play in the 5A State Football Championship for the third year in a row this Saturday night in Hillsboro.  Sherwood schools are excellent in many different ways, but they certainly have developed quite the athletic program over the past few years. Related link: Sherwood botches touchdown celebration in near perfect state championship victory (video)

We’re sure you did your research before the accepting the position but with any new job there are “surprises.” What were those for you?

That is a tough question – not a whole lot of surprises so far.  Probably the biggest that comes to mind was the pleasant surprise of how strong and talented the staff is within my new organization.  This fact is making my transition here so much smoother than anticipated.

We’d imagine it is a balancing act – searching for a job while you already have one. Tell us how you approach that.

downloadAgain, I wasn’t really looking to leave my job in Fairview.  When you are in the position of being a City Manager, it is certainly easy to follow what is going on within the job market, especially in the Metro region.  So while I was not looking to leave, the Sherwood opportunity was too hard to not look into earlier this year.  One of the more difficult aspects during the recruitment period was when do I inform the Fairview City Council members about being considered for the Sherwood position.  I decided to inform the Mayor and City Councilors when I made it to the finalist phase.  I wanted to ensure that they heard it from me directly versus reading about it in the newspaper or through word-of-mouth.

One of the nice aspects to my original hire in Fairview was that the City Council thought I would be only there for about 3 to 4 years, and I was well into year 6 of my tenure.  In fact, one of my Fairview City Councilors had advised me not to wait too long to take the next step in my career in year 5, since he thought if I stayed too long in one place, it could hurt my career.

Give us three tips for marketing ourselves for the job that we want.

Local government in the Northwest is a small world so I always advise aspiring managers to build a good network of professionals in the field.  All of these wonderful social media tools like Linked In and Facebook make it so much easier, but I always recommend the face-to-face opportunities.

    • Grab coffee or lunch with an experienced manager and pick their brains about their careers.  This is a very collegial profession and it certainly helped me through my career.
    • I also recommend that you get to know Mayors and City Councilors in cities throughout our region, especially if you plan on being a City Manager someday.  Working effectively with elected officials is a big challenge for managers and learning how they think and act as early as possible in your career can help prepare you. 
    • And the last tip is more for graduate and undergraduate students – get some internship experience under your belt (even if it is unpaid).  One of my favorite recent interns in Fairview was Jessica Struyk – she did a great job for me while there, but she also interned in Forest Grove and Gresham.  This gave her a variety of different organizations and communities to experience while still in school and broadened her knowledge.

In your opinion, will light rail ever reach Sherwood? What year?

Interesting question!  Metro’s Southwest Corridor Planning project has been looking at that exact question over the past few months and has determined that it does not make sense in the next 15 to 20 year time period.  I think it is more likely to see bus rapid transit and/or increased local services to adjacent employment center like Hillsboro or Wilsonville versus light rail into Portland.  We are a relatively small city of 18,000 people and although we will certainly continue to grow, I don’t believe that Sherwood will become another Hillsboro or Beaverton in terms of population.

Three speaker recommendations for ELGL:

In no particular order:

  • Governor Kitzhaber – since we have had the opportunity to hear from Washington’s governor, I think it would be great to hear from our governor.  Especially with the tremendous challenges (e.g. PERS reform and inequities of property tax system) that he is facing, it would be great to hear directly from the Governor.
  • Former Co-Speakers of the Oregon House Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan – their approach to working across partisan lines is a great example of what I would love to see more in all levels of government.
  • Rob Drake – As many people know, I worked in the Mayor’s Office when Rob was Beaverton’s Mayor and he has transitioned to now being the City Manager of Cornelius.  It would be interesting to hear his thoughts about the differences between serving as a strong mayor versus appointed manager.

A new mayor was elected in Sherwood. Tell us the three most important items that you try to communicate to him during the transition.

Very timely question since it is occupying a great deal of time and effort currently.

First and foremost, I have tried to communicate to him that I, along with management team, are here to help bring him up to speed before his swearing-in date so he can hit the ground effectively.  Our Mayor’s term is only 2 years and Mayor-elect Middleton certainly has goals and projects that he wants to accomplish during that time period.  Unlike many new Mayors, he has not served on the City Council so the learning curve is a little steeper.  The election is over and the citizens have spoken – I have made it very clear to our staff that our job is to continue to move forward positively and work with the new Mayor to provide great services to our residents and businesses.

In the Council-Manager form of government, my relationship with a new mayor is kind of like learning to dance with a new partner.  In the beginning, we may step on each other’s toes a little bit, but over time and experience, we can learn to dance effectively together.  Understanding and respecting each other’s respective roles is very important and I am optimistic about our new relationship.

I also have encouraged the Mayor-elect to meet with each of the other six City Councilors over the transition period to begin building relationships.  Getting elected is one thing, but learning to lead and govern is the challenge now.

Which will happen first – a sales tax in Oregon or the Duck winning a football championship?

That is easy – Oregon Ducks will win a national championship before a sales tax happens in our state!

You’re a mentor for many local government folks in the Portland area which begs the question who are your mentors?

download (1)Some of the folks that have been extremely helpful in my career include Erik Kvarsten in Gresham, retired Troutdale City Manager John Anderson, and my former boss in Beaverton, Linda Adlard.  Besides helping me sort through different challenges during my career, the common thread with these three individuals has been their honest feedback and belief that I can be successful in this profession.  While it was not always easy to hear their constructive feedback, it has proven to be quite beneficial.  Since I have enjoyed so many strong mentors over my career, I really love the fact that I now have the opportunity to assist up and coming local government professionals as they begin their journey in this fabulous profession.

Three biggest issues facing Sherwood in 2013.

  • Transition with a New Mayor
  • Continuing Budget Challenges as we slowly emerge from the recession
  • Developing a Strategic Plan for our organization

Suggestions for ELGL members when they are shopping for that government wonk on their Christmas list.

  • Past seasons of Parks & Recreation, Homeland, or West Wing (still one of my faves)
  • Tickets to go see the movie Lincoln (still on my list!)

Related links

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