Clark County economic development chief resigns

Kelly Sills the latest high-level official to depart in past year




Clark County’s economic development manager submitted his resignation this week after accepting a job with the city of Portland.

Kelly Sills, 56, started working for the county in 2000 as a policy adviser to county commissioners. He works closely with commissioners in his current role, with duties including commissioner-directed research.

His last day will be Feb. 18.

On Thursday, Sills said he’ll start Feb. 24 as parking control manager for the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Commissioner Tom Mielke, chairman of the board, said Thursday he and Commissioners David Madore and Steve Stuart congratulated Sills this week.

“We always wish our employees the best,” he said.

Mielke doesn’t think Sills’ resignation, which follows departures by more than a half-dozen high-level employees in the past 12 months, reflects poorly on the county.

He said Sills will be making “a lot more money.” When an employee takes an opportunity to earn more money, it doesn’t “mean your employer is a bad person,” Mielke said.

However, Sills, a Salmon Creek resident who has no immediate plans to move to Portland, actually will be earning less money.

He earns $85,236 a year at the county, said Human Resources Director Francine Reis. As parking control manager, he’ll earn $84,970 a year and have to pay Oregon’s income tax.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” Sills said. “It’s an exciting place to work, a larger jurisdiction.” He called parking policies “a fascinating intersection” of land-use and transportation policies.

Diane Dulkan, spokeswoman for the transportation bureau, confirmed Sills’ salary. She said his duties will include developing and administering all of the parking permit programs and supervising staff responsible for evaluating, designing, installing and removing all parking control devices such as signs, meters, pay stations and markings.

In Sills’ Feb. 3 resignation letter to Administrator Mark McCauley, he praised McCauley and referenced working with 15 freeholders elected to write a proposed county charter.

“I have valued your professional guidance and support and I wish you and the county all success in the future,” Sills wrote. “I say that after working in this office for more than 13 years and most of that time for another excellent county administrator, Bill Barron, which gives me some perspective in confirming how positively I view your leadership,” he wrote.

“The primary project I am currently engaged in is writing the charter under the direction of the Board of Freeholders. I highly recommend that I hereafter concentrate on BOF support to the relative exclusion of other projects, and we can discuss my remaining schedule. I will certainly do my best to make this transition as seamless as feasible.”

Freeholders plan to have a proposed charter ready for the ballot this fall.

The county lost several top officials in the last year, including Barron, Deputy Administrator Glenn Olson, Director of Public Works Pete Capell, Budget Director Jim Dickman and Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Bronson Potter. In addition, three other civil prosecutors, who advise commissioners, have left or announced plans to leave.

Director of Public Health John Wiesman left after an appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee to be secretary of health; his deputy director, Marni Storey, served briefly as interim director before taking a job in Washington County, Ore.

Rekah Strong, who resigned her position as Clark County chief diversity and inclusion officer, told Madore and Mielke at a public hearing in November that they are bullies.

“Your employees fear you,” Strong said. “They’re not engaged. They’re operating in a place of paralysis. You have a lawsuit that is filed against you (by a current county employee) for going against our (equal employment opportunity) practices and what we’ve committed ourselves to do for the past six years. … We’ve had a mass exodus of employees because people are fearful.”

Sills said Thursday he’s worked for seven different county commissioners. They come with different traits and values, and he’s learned lessons from all of them.

He declined to say anything else about the current commissioners, reiterating he’s excited for a new job that has potential for advancement, and he’s planning to take the high road because “the low road is jammed enough.”