Pendleton could have a new city manager at work as soon as December. 

Mayor Phil Houk this week said 48 have applied for the position currently held by Larry Lehman, who’s served as manager for 18 years. 

Pendleton City Council voted June 7 to not renew Lehman’s contract past June 2012. If a good replacement is found, the city will buy out the remainder of his contract and set the new person to work several months earlier than  expected when it first started the search, Houk said.

City managers are professional administrators of city business and can advise governing bodies, but not vote on anything. 

When the city council decided to let go of Lehman, it cited a desire for change in direction for Pendleton. Houk compared city managers to professional football coaches, who frequently switch jobs. 

“Very few city managers haven’t been fired from a city, that’s very common,” he said.

Now the city is hoping for a candidate with experience managing a city and working on long-term projects. “It would be nice to see someone who’s demonstrated some successes with economic development,” Houk said.

Lehman has agreed to be available by phone to help with the transition. “He’s making sure that his departure is respectful,” Houk said.

The League of Oregon Cities processed the applications and submitted them to the city council, he said, which will oversee narrowing the field of candidates over the next few weeks. Then the final few applicants will undergo a rigorous review process by city staff and members of the public.

Prominent Pendletonians will have a say, too, since the council approved a community advisory committee that includes Blue Mountain Community College President John Turner, St. Anthony Hospital Acting President Jim Schlenker and East Oregonian Associate Publisher Kathryn Brown. 

The mayor said they won’t meet as a group, rather they’ll individually meet with city manager candidates. 

“The hope is we’ll have enough feel from the department heads, the employees, and the general public to move forward quickly,” Houk said.

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