WA: Jon Amundson, City of Richland, WA

Posted on September 9, 2013

ELGL green icon


What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from other’s mistakes than yours.

Our Take on Utah

Yes, you are correct, the Fifty Nifty has previously visited Utah. In our first trip, we heard from Utah: Rick Davis, West Jordan City Manager and now we return to hear from the newly appointed assistant city manager of Orem, Utah, Jon Amundson. Jon was serving in the same position for Richland, WA. With that background information out of the way, we refresh your memory on our thoughts about Utah.

Our initial thoughts on Utah are limited to Karl Malone, John Stockton, Park City, the Winter Olympics, and the four-day work week. As of late, Utah has been good to Oregon as the new Sandy, Oregon city manager Seth Atkinson cut his local government teeth in Utah. When we do some quick research on Utah, we find that it is the fifth fastest growing state, and in 2012 Gallup national survey found Utah overall to be the “best state to live in” based on 13 forward-looking measurements including various economic, lifestyle, and health-related outlook metrics.

On the local level, Utah is known for producing a wealth of well-qualified managers aided by the BYU MPA program and Utah City Management Association.

Jon Amundson


Current Position: City of Richland, WA, Assistant City Manager

Work History: Assistant to the City Manager, City of Allen, TX; Management Analyst, City of Allen; Management Intern, City of Allen, TX; and Management Intern, City of Lenexa, TX

Education: University of Kansas, M.P.A., Public Administration and Brigham Young University, Bachelor of Arts, American Studies

Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Background Check on Jon

Jon Amundson was recently selected assistant city manager in Orem, UT. He began work for the city of Orem in September. Previously, he was the Richland, WA assistant city manager. His early career was rooted in Texas as assistant to the city manager in Allen, Texas. Before starting work in Allen in 2004, he worked for the city of Lenexa, Kansas, and the Utah State Legislature. He has a bachelor’s in American studies from Brigham Young University in Utah and a master of public administration from the University of Kansas.

Background Check on Orem, Utah

The City of Orem was organized in 1919 and named after Walter C. Orem, President of the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad. Orem is now the commercial and technological center for Central Utah and is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Housing, educational, and employment opportunities continue to be in high demand as Orem’s population approaches 91,000 residents.

The City of Orem is located on the eastern shore of Utah Lake and extends on the east to Provo and the foothills of Mount Timpanogos. It shares the general location with Provo, and its history is closely related to that of Provo. Its recent explosive development and growth have resulted in Orem’s population exceeding 88,000 people, according to 2010 census figures making it the fifth-largest city in Utah.

The Orem Owlz of the minor league baseball Pioneer League play their home games at the college.

Orem uses the moniker “Family City USA”. In fact, in 2010 Forbes rated it the 5th best place to raise a family.At one time the area was known as Sharon, a Biblical name for a mostly level strip of land running between mountains and the sea, and the name of the Vermont birth town of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith.Another former name was Provo Bench. In an apparent attempt to attract more investment to the town and provide an easy way for the large population of farmers with orchards to ship produce, in 1914 it was named after Walter C. Orem, President of the Salt Lake and Utah railroad in the early 1900s. Orem was incorporated in 1919.

Connect with Orem: Facebook, Twitter, and World Wide Web

Notable Residents

  • LaVell Edwards – BYU football coach
  • Marie Osmond – American actress and singer
  • Alan Ashton (executive) – Co-founder of WordPerfect
  • Julianne Hough – professional ballroom dancer on Dancing with the Stars and singer, born in Orem
  • Gary Herbert- Current Governor of the State of Utah

Lighting Round

Best piece of advice from your parents. Don’t be afraid of hard work.

In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?

George Strait, Fleetwood Mac, & Neil Diamond (You know you like him)

(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to…….…see my children grow into thoughtful, caring and contributing members of society.

Three most influential books in your life.

  • Book of Mormon
  • Les Misérables  by Victor Hugo
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

  • Seth Godin
  • Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Jim Collins
  • Meriwether Lewis & William Clark
  • Nelson Mandela

Describe the inside of your car: Clean, because my kids don’t ever ride in it. There is a secret stash of candy in the center console.

What’s the meaning of life? Serve others and reach our highest potential


We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?

At 12-years old I wanted to be a dentist. I kept that dream until my freshman year in college and I had Chemistry 105. That was enough to cure me from the physical sciences and recognize my strength was in the social sciences.

My first foray into local government was as an intern in Lenexa, Kansas while going to graduate school at the University of Kansas Edwin O. Stene Master’s Program in Public Administration.

I ended up in local government after having been introduced to a City Manager through a mutual friend. Once I found out what he did, I knew that is a career I was interested in pursuing.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

Honored with an “InfoWorld 100” Award from InfoWorld Magazine as Project Lead on an Enterprise Content Management Initiative. Commended as one of the nation’s top 100 IT Projects “that use technology in smart, innovative, creative ways to meet business and technical objectives.”

Received my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the International Project Management Institute.

Successfully administered $4.9 million in Recovery Act grants while at the City of Richland.

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.

You can only move as fast as the organization is willing. Pushing beyond the organization capacity for change is not productive.

Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience? How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?

My own family asks me how my career as a city planner is going. I think the life well run campaign by ICMA is an excellent tool to educate and inform the general population of what we do ensure effective and efficient delivery of local government services.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?

Yes, if they have a true desire to serve their community and want to make a difference.

Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impress.

  • Make sure I know what you’re passionate about
  • Tell me what you makes you uniquely qualified
  • Dress to impress

Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be ……………continuing to provide essential services to its citizens despite political and resource challenges.

Supplemental Reading

Close window