Ridgefield faces 'a critical time' for its future

Leadership, planning will help fulfill vision for city with growing population

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow pictures a future where his city is known for its booming commerce along the Interstate 5 junction, its relaxed, timeless downtown and its inviting waterfront.

It's a city that Onslow envisions will skyrocket from around 5,000 residents today to upward of 25,000 in the next two decades, if the city's projections hold true.

Leadership and planning will determine whether this vision becomes reality, Onslow and other city officials say, which is why the city's upcoming city manager hire and city council appointments are so important.

These moves are results of growth, Onslow says, and speak highly of Ridgefield.

Longtime City Manager Justin Clary left for a job with the private engineering firm Maul Foster Alongi this spring. Meanwhile, the city is soon to pass 5,000 residents, a population milestone by which the state requires that a city add two more council members to its five-member council.

"The city of Ridgefield, in my estimation, is going to explode in the next five years with not only new housing growth but also light industrial growth, as well," said veteran Ridgefield Councilman Don Stose. "The city manager and two council members need to be in line, making sure we move forward in that light."

The population numbers should be finalized in the next week, Interim City Manager Paul Lewis said, meaning the city would have 90 days from that distinction to appoint its new members.

Clary is credited with bringing order and stability to a city government that had struggled prior to his arrival on the job. In that way, he made the job an attractive one to people with administrative skills, Onslow said.

"If we pick the right person, it will expand our horizons even more," Onslow said.

Ridgefield hired independent consulting firm Prothman to lead its search for a new city manager. City officials are hopeful that application reviews will be finished by month's end, with the front-runner for the job identified by the end of August and a new city manager on the job sometime in September.

The city can offer the city manager between $95,000 and $120,000, Lewis said. Clary made $101,448 in 2011 and was scheduled to make the same amount in 2012.

The ideal candidate would be able to bring fresh ideas to the city while also energizing city employees and working well with business, officials said.

"It's a critical position," Lewis said. "It's a critical time. The person you're looking for will most likely be involved in the growth of the city."

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend;www.twitter.com/#!/col_smallcities;ray.legendre@columbian.com