By editorial board • 

Meeker’s drive was appreciated by many

What was perceived as a new beginning ended abruptly this week when Martha Meeker stepped down as McMinnville city manager after just under two years.

All involved parties have labeled the parting amicable, allowing the focus to remain on the future, not pivot to the past.

That cordiality, of course, in the best interest of the constituency. But it’s worth pausing to engage in at least some reflection, in order to set the stage for positive decisions going forward.

Meeker’s brief tenure included passage of a transportation bond, initiation of an array of transportation improvements, introduction of a new website, transition to a new fixed-base operator at the airport, orderly regulation of marijuana sales and creation of a dedicated destination marketing organization. Thrust at the outset into a challenging situation involving a downtown homeless camp, she was able to ease tensions and channel  discussion in a more appropriate direction — the city’s role in affordable housing.

As performance evaluations would later show, Meeker’s zeal could position her in front of the council, sometimes making it seem she was going rogue, without benefit of prior input or discussion. One example was a deal struck with a New York outfit to create promotional videos for the city, conditioned on city endorsement of its hopes of selling $10,000 video packages to local businesses.

Meeker’s aggressive style represented a big change from the cautious, controlled style of her long-time predecessor, and that sometime triggered clashes with top elected and appointed leaders. Former manager Kent Taylor was content to let the ship of state cruise along at a pace comfortable to all, but Meeker was intent on driving it forward and insisted others keep pace.

Sometimes, clearly, she pushed too hard. Performance evaluations published in response to a public records request indicated she sometimes proved precipitous, intemperate or brusque, to the detriment of smooth city functioning.

But the former brigadier general’s drive was also appreciated, not only by members of this newspaper’s editorial board and news staff, but also by those in the larger community, several of whom rose to express their disappointment with her resignation.

McMinnville is blossoming into a vibrant city, leaving behind its traditional small-town persona. A population of 40,000 is just around the corner, creating new opportunities and new challenges. They will be best met with some of the go-getter attitude Meeker injected into the manager’s office.

As the council begins the process of hiring the city’s fourth manager, we hope it will reflect on both the strengths and weaknesses of both its last two. We hope it will not pass up the opportunity to embrace dynamic leadership, just because it didn’t work out as well as hoped last time.

Meeker’s tenure was too short to leave much of a legacy. We doubt any roads or buildings will be named in her honor.

But the sense of energy and motion she brought to city hall should not be dismissed in an attempt to restore a comfortable sense of how things used to be.
 

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