Ridgefield city manager leaving for engineering job

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: March 5, 2012, 6:39 PM

 
photoJustin Clary

Ridgefield City Manager Justin Clary will leave the city at the end of the month to take an engineering job with a firm in Bellingham, he announced Monday.

City officials said they hope to have an interim city manager in place in the next week to 10 days.

City and county officials credited Clary with bringing stability to Ridgefield at a time when the city’s political scene suffered a turbulent patch.

Clary, 40, started as interim city manager in December 2005 and became full-time city manager in April 2007. His tenure outlasted the longevity of all Ridgefield’s other city managers combined. The city’s first city manager started in 2000.

“We’ve been able to turn the corner and bring stability to city government,” said Clary, whose last day is March 31. The city government’s stability, he noted, brought him the most pride when he reflected on the past six years.

Clary will serve as the principal engineer with Maul Foster Alongi’s new office in Bellingham, where he will assist Pacific Northwest communities in making environmentally contaminated sites viable for use again, among other things. He accepted the Maul Foster Alongi job after turning down an offer to become the assistant city manager in the city of Lacey in Thurston County.

Clary worked with an environmental consulting firm prior to joining Ridgefield as the city’s public works director.

The opportunity to slide back into the private sector at a time when Ridgefield had made serious headway on several projects made sense to Clary. Among the projects nearing completion are the Ridgefield Interchange, Overlook Park and the council’s overhaul of the city’s development code.

Ridgefield elected officials repeated variations of the same line when asked about Clary on Monday. They said they were happy for him but sad to see him go.

“We won’t be able to duplicate Justin,” Councilman Don Stose said. Ridgefield must find a well-rounded replacement knowledgeable in how small cities work and how to communicate with business leaders, Stose added.

There is no timeline for hiring a full-time replacement. Clary’s annual salary was $101,448, city officials said.

Clary’s calm demeanor helped him leave behind the city’s past “drama,” said Gary Bock of the Ridgefield Planning Commission.

“He got us on an even keel,” Bock said, adding Clary placed the city on the “proper path to deal with growth.”

Ridgefield’s population is expected to surpass 5,000 residents sometime later this year — double where it stood when Clary took over.

Clary’s efforts have been lauded among his peers countywide.

“He’s done wonderfully good work, is a model of professionalism and is a rising star (in his field),” Camas City Administrator Lloyd Halverson said, noting he, like Clary’s colleagues in Ridgefield, was sorry to see him move on.

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