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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Camas city manager Jamal Fox announces resignation

By Jack Heffernan, Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published: May 26, 2021, 1:38pm

Camas’ top staffer will resign in July, just under a year after his hiring, after accepting a similar position on the East Coast.

City Administrator Jamal Fox will resign effective July 9, according to a news release from the city. His hiring was announced July 20, and he started in the role in August.

“The city of Camas has been a great opportunity for me as your city administrator,” Fox said in a statement. “It is my belief that the organization is stronger with the enhanced processes and the right leaders in the right places to continue the great work we began together. I am encouraged by the team and excited about the future opportunities that exist for this city.”

The city of Takoma Park, Md., announced in a news release Wednesday that Fox had been selected as its new city manager. Fox will start in that role on Aug 2.

Fox could not immediately be reached for further comment Wednesday afternoon. He has not been available for comment since his hiring was announced.

In April, Fox was named one of three finalists for the city manager position in Gresham, Ore., before that city selected another candidate.

Following the announcement that Fox was a finalist, a statement from the city of Camas released by spokesperson Bryan Rachal said that Fox “has been pursued by multiple municipalities.”

“Knowing what type of leader Jamal is, we completely understand why,” the statement reads. “Jamal’s skills, talent and leadership have been much appreciated and they have been an important part of the success the city has experienced during the pandemic. While we are saddened to possibly lose Jamal to another city, we’re also excited for the opportunity for him and his family.”

Former Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell announced his immediate resignation May 11; he said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“Former Mayor Barry McDonnell, staff and the community have been welcoming, and I think we have accomplished a lot in my time here,” Fox said in the Wednesday statement.

Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Burton is serving as the city’s top elected official as the city searches for a replacement for McDonnell. She will name an interim replacement for Fox ahead of a national search for a permanent one, according to the city.

The statement from the city touted Fox’s additions to city staff, his restructuring “of various processes” and leadership during COVID-19.

“I want to thank Jamal for his leadership during some unprecedented times,” Burton said in a statement. “His work with staff and his leadership during his time in Camas has helped guide the city into the future. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Hired after voters shake up council

Fox’s predecessor, former Camas City Administrator Pete Capell, announced in December 2019 that he would step down. Capell’s announcement came after McDonnell, a write-in candidate, defeated incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk in the November 2019 mayoral election.

Despite beginning his campaign about a month before Election Day, McDonnell was carried by opposition to a proposition on the same ballot that would have earmarked $78 million for a new community center. The bond failed with nearly 90 percent opposition.

Capell later said that he had “a target on my back” as a de facto spokesperson for the bond and other city priorities.

The Camas City Council considered three consultant firms in January 2020 to conduct a search for the city’s next administrator before landing on Portland- and Seattle-based Waldron. Cost proposals ranged from $18,000 to $28,000.

Fox previously spent about three years with the city of Portland, serving his final year there as one of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s deputy chiefs of staff. In 2013, at age 25, Fox made history as the youngest person ever elected to the Greensboro, N.C., City Council, where he served for four years.

Camas officials reviewed 67 applications for the position, McDonnell said in a video conversation with Fox posted after his hiring announcement.

“Building trust, or rebuilding and strengthening trust, to make sure that Camasonians believe in their government, that they have the same vision, or the strategic vision that we create, they see themselves in that vision,” Fox said during that conversation, also saying that Camas was “poised for great things.”

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During the conversation, Fox lauded the city’s history, parks, residents, infrastructure, schools and public safety.

“We wanted a place where we can lay our roots and grow our family, and Camas was that community,” Fox said.

The city administrator oversees daily operations, under the direction of the mayor, in Camas’ mayor-council form of government. It’s the highest-paid position among city employees, with an annual salary ranging from $143,400 to $171,768.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter