New Camas manager to grow with city

Pete Capell takes post after 17 years with Clark County

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoPete Capell

Camas' new city administrator says he looks forward to sidestepping bureaucratic red tape and long-winded discussions that lead nowhere.

Plucked from the ranks of Clark County, where he served as public works director for the past 14 years, Pete Capell said he plans to stay the course in a city that seemingly has a solid handle on community development.

Clark County, after all, is a different beast altogether, with its bickering commissioners, controversial hires and, in the past year, exodus of staff. Capell, one of the staff members who left the county, had a 17-year career there.

He said it was time to pursue new career opportunities. Camas was an attractive option, he said, because there weren't any political or economic fires to put out.

"I'm not criticizing anybody … but there's just a lot more bureaucracy in Clark County than there is going to be in a city the size of Camas," Capell said. "I think there's a greater opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get things done (here)."

Capell joins the city following the completion of a number of major projects. Toward the end of 2013, the city approved its 2014 budget, agreed to the terms of a fire department merger with Washougal and signed off on a 460-acre mixed-use development agreement north of Lacamas Lake. The city also completed the extension of Northwest 38th Avenue to Southeast 20th Street. The project is intended to improve access to acres of developable land. Fisher Investments' campus is nearby, and the company announced last year it would build a second office building there.

"Camas has so many good things going on with the economic development they've done, with the major industries that are in the city," Capell said. "When a large employer wants to start up someplace, they're not necessarily willing to wait several years for

the infrastructure to be put in place. It makes for much more marketable property."

Capell's first week on the job has been a whirlwind of activity, he said. His first day, typically filled with paperwork, coincided with city council's inaugural meeting of the year. And he still doesn't have all the door codes for City Hall.

One step at a time, he said.

In his first 90 days — his probationary period — Capell said he plans to spend his time building relationships and understanding how the city works.

Mayor Scott Higgins said Capell would be up to the task of guiding the city through further business development. He said he was excited to hire Capell, who had a good reputation at the county and was well known elsewhere.

Capell's name has been mentioned for other administrative jobs, including the county's top spot. In 2013, Capell was tapped as one of two internal hires to replace Bill Barron as county administrator, a job that went to Mark McCauley, former director of the county's general services department.

In Camas, he replaces Nina Regor, who died last year after battling an illness. She had been on the job less than a year. Her predecessor, Lloyd Halverson, was Camas' first city administrator and was in the position for 23 years.

Capell, who holds an engineering degree from Oregon State University, will receive an annual salary of $131,652.

As his first week on the job ends, he said he looks toward growing with the city.

"You need to be better tomorrow than you were today," Capell said. "But that's not an upheaval. That's just looking at the systems in place and making sure they're the best fit to serve the community as we grow."