Kelcey Young named city manager

Benny Westcott

The Sweet Home City Council has named Kelcey Young as its new city manager, according to an Aug. 16 letter from Mayor Greg Mahler.

He wrote that the council, after considering the city’s needs, extended her an offer on “a rare occasion of unanimity.”

Young, the finance director for the city of Clearlake, Calif., has accepted the position and anticipates an Oct. 1 start date. (The other top contender was in-house candidate Blair Larsen, currently Sweet Home’s community and economic development director.)

“We hope that the entire community will join us in extending a warm welcome to Kelcey as she acclimates to our community and helps lead us into the future,” Mahler wrote. “The city is on a good trajectory and our goal is to continue to follow this path to make our community an even sweeter place to live.”

Young has held the position of Clearlake’s finance director for a year. She graduated from California State University Humboldt in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities. In 2006, she earned a master’s degree in social science (environment and community) from Humboldt as well as an environmental planning certificate from Rutgers University.

She was a freelance photographer in the greater Seattle area from 2008 to 2013, then for Bellevue College in Washington, where she worked with parks and recreation, art and art walks before the college moved her to procurement.

“Unfortunately, that took me away from the art side, which I absolutely loved,” she said at an Aug. 10 candidate forum. “However, I found a new love for procurements and contracts and so forth.”

That passion sent her to San Antonio, Texas, where she became a contract administrator and contract manager for the city, which had both a $560 million and $850 million bond. Many projects commenced, including a new city hall, arena, stormwater, roads and other infrastructure.

“I was able to work with all of the bond programs,” she recalled.

Young then traveled to Dallas, Texas, to help with some of its compliance issues. She served there as the city’s assistant director of procurement operations. She noted that the city had a few grants it had to return, as well as a “huge billion-dollar bond project.”

Upon arriving, she developed a contracting program and compliance system and trained the staff to use it.

“I got to be involved in school districts, parks, nonprofits and lots of development projects, both in San Antonio and in Dallas,” she said.

In her current role as Clearlake’s finance director, Young has, in addition to rolling out the budget and handling payroll, worked on various development opportunities and business licenses as well as overseen emergency management. In 2011, she received a Federal Emergency Management Agency Professional Development Series certification, then a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt business certification in 2017.

Explaining the hiring process for the Sweet Home city manager, Mahler said that the council asked the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (OCWCOG) to guide it through the candidate search “to be sure that the hiring process was as impartial as possible.” The council approved a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities it believed would be necessary to see the city through the next stage of growth.

“From that list, a scoring tool was developed by our OCWCOG representative,” Mahler wrote. “That scoring mechanism was used to invite candidates for the first and second interviews and continued throughout the hiring process.”

Councilor Angelita Sanchez said that “I believe that Kelcey received the highest score because she has a great strategic plan to move us ahead, whereas I didn’t feel that was as strong with the other candidates. I love the fact that she has a 90% success rate with receiving grants. And I really want to secure as much grant funding as we possibly can to save residents in this community as much money as possible when we need things fixed. For me, that was very enticing.”

“Kelcey has a lot of work experience in certain functions that the city manager needs for a city of our size,” she added. “She has managed staff and projects that are high volume.”

She also noted that “She is certified in certain disciplines that are proactive instead of reactive, that would cause us to be more productive instead of less productive, and those disciplines are part of her strategy that I really appreciate.”

“I appreciate her experience in multiple large infrastructure projects, both in managing and negotiating for them,” Councilor Susan Coleman said. “We have a wastewater facility upgrade and a few other infrastructure-related large projects coming up that we think that she could guide us through well.”

Councilor Dylan Richards, like Sanchez, cited Young’s background on grants as being crucial to the council’s decision.

Young, he added, “seems really motivated and willing to put her head down and get a lot done.”

Sanchez did note that “Blair brings a lot to the table as well. It was a very hard decision.”

Mahler too expressed gratitude for Larsen’s role in the city.

“We are grateful to Blair Larsen for the work he is doing as our community and economic development director,” he wrote. “We were also pleased to hear that the community and staff members recognize his skills and accomplishments. The fact that he was in the final round of interviews confirms their good judgment. We hope Sweet Home will continue to enjoy his excellent service for many years to come.”

The hire comes in the aftermath of former City Manager Ray Towry’s resignation in February. Since then, the job has been filled by Christy Wurster on a pro tem basis. She held the same position from May to November 2016, when Towry took office. She was also the city manager of Silverton from 2017 to 2020.