By editorial board • 

Adjustments for manager, city vital for future growth

Two years ago, the McMinnville City Council decided on a hire that bucked tradition in many ways.

Martha Meeker is the just the third city manager in the history of McMinnville. Between them, her two predecessors held the position for 53 years.

One was a local bus operator previously serving on the city council and the other a man with a background rooted in small town administration in Oregon. So it wasn’t surprising to learn the initial adjustment to a former U.S. Air Force brigadier general from the East Coast had encountered a rough patch.

That’s not to say there aren’t some alarming words jumping out here and there from the seven-page improvement plan imposed on Meeker, and the 77 pages of supporting performance evaluation, obtained by the News-Register in response to a public records request. The action emerged from weeks of closed executive sessions in which the council conducted the evaluation process and sought Meeker’s response.

It’s obvious from the evaluations that the working relationship between Meeker and Mayor Rick Olson has been uncomplementary and unproductive. That doesn’t represent the whole story here, but is clearly a major element. Hopefully, the fact Olson’s term is ending will pave the way for a better alliance moving forward.

Comparing her own evaluation with those of the mayor and council, it seems Meeker may be a bit tone deaf about certain aspects of her performance. However, she is clearly aware of some shortcomings on her part. For example, she notes, “Diplomacy entails a level of patience which I’ll need to work on forever.”

For both Meeker and councilors, there must be better recognition of roles. The council’s function is to set policy, the manager’s role to implement that policy.

In some cases, Meeker “undermined the strength of the council and mayor’s role,” one councilor said. However, another held Olson equally responsible, saying he did not accord her with sufficient respect or allow her to deviate from the city’s historic style of leadership and management in reflection of her own strengths.

The lesson here? If councilors thought they could craft a brigadier general into a position which has become comfortable and traditional for the city over the years, they were sadly mistaken.

Hopefully, this is simply a marriage that needs some work. Hopefully, both parties will act in good faith in working to foster progress.

It’s obvious the council thinks highly of Meeker in many respects. We are pleased it did not act precipitously and sever the relationship outright, which would have triggered a storm with potential legal and fiscal implications.

The plan of improvement includes a few red flags, however, notably this one: “No communications with the media without prior approval of an appointed city council member.” That stipulation is completely unreasonable and unworkable. It is utterly unacceptable.

Inclusion of that line item displays a sadly lacking understanding on the part of the mayor and council about the volume and flow of day-to-day communications. Souring the process will lead to less communication with the citizens who, at the end of the day, are the actual bosses here.



Maybe the city manager would have been rated higher if the name were Mark Meeker instead of Martha.


Or maybe if she understood her role in the chain of command. Your accusation is unsupported by fact.


"Two years ago, the McMinnville City Council decided on a hire that bucked tradition in many ways."
Let us count the ways. She will never be considered even close to a Kent Taylor or Joe Dancer, nor will she engender the near-reverential worship her two predecessors inspired, for reasons I am at a loss to fathom; could it be perhaps that being different--in this case, her previous lengthy military career, the fact she is not "one of us," plus her gender automatically arouse suspicion in this city? Not suspicions ever voiced as fact, by the way, but equivalent to the elephant in the room.


After reading your post, the principal of Occam's razor, comes to mind.....

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