Eager to serve: New Silverton city manager has background in public works

January 2017 Posted in Community
Incoming Silverton City Manager Christy Wurster

Incoming Silverton City Manager
Christy Wurster

By Kristine Thomas 

Don’t expect to always find Christy Wurster sitting behind her desk.

The in-coming city manager of Silverton plans to be out and about as much as possible.

“I manage by wandering around,” she said, laughing. “You can really learn a lot by being in the community and talking to your employees and residents.”

Believing the best way to lead is by understanding, Wurster said if an employee shares a problem at the water plant or at a park, she will want to go and see the situation for a better understanding of how to help resolve it.

“I understand a project better if I can look at it,” she said.  “I like to work collaboratively with the staff to come up with solutions.”

The Silverton City Council unanimously agreed to hire Wurster as city manager on Dec. 12. She will replace Bob Willoughby, who is retiring Jan. 31. Wurster starts Jan. 17.

Wurster has more than 20 years of public and private management experience. She has served as city manager in Dayton and interim manager for Fairview and Sweet Home.  Her experience includes property acquisition, revitalization of downtown Dayton, and management of historical property in Salem. Wurster has a master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University and is a member of Oregon City/County Management Association. She will serve as the association’s president next year.

Wurster, 49, is married to Todd Wurster, a mechanical engineer. Their son, Trevor, 22, is finishing boot camp for the U.S. Marines Corp. in January.

While working for the city of Dallas Wurster earned her bachelor’s degree. When she told the city manager and the public works director that she was finished with her education, they told her no, she wasn’t.

“They told me I was going to be a city manager one day and I needed to earn my master’s degree,” she said.

Her accomplishments reflect a passion for public service. In each city she’s worked, there are projects she has completed.

“It’s rewarding to see all the projects you complete that make a difference in your community,” Wurster said.

Spend some time talking with her and one quickly discovers she has an ability to look see a problem from different angles and develop several ideas on how to fix it. She’s already compling lists of ideas for projects in town.

Describing herself as driven, Wurster said she has an open door policy and welcomes feedback from community members.

Silverton Mayor Rick Lewis said 35 people applied for the job, including several qualified applicants.

“From the beginning, for me, Christy stood out,” Lewis said. “The more I learned about her, the more the choice became clear for me.”

Along with City Councilor Kyle Palmer, Lewis traveled to Sweet Home. There they interviewed a number of people Wurster worked with as the city’s interim manager. “All of them had nothing but the very best to say about her,” Lewis said.

The mayor said he is impressed by Wurster’s communication style, approachability, commitment to community, knowledge and experience level, and personality.

“As a council, we want a city manager who is involved in the community, who has the knowledge and experience to hit the ground running, who listens well and involves staff extensively in decision-making and who has a commitment to customer service and excellence,” Lewis said. “I believe Christy has all of these traits and more.”

Palmer said he believes Wurster has the “right mind set for managing a community the size of Silverton.”

He said what tipped the scale for him was Wurster’s commitment to forward thinking regardless of status quo. When he and Lewis spoke to people in Sweet Home, they shared they begged her to stay and become their full-time manager.

“They all told detailed stories about how she was one of those rare talents who can enter into a bureaucratic process and in the course of doing her job redirect efforts toward a productive outcome,” Palmer said. “Some of those examples were of multi-agency efforts that had simply stalled due to normal red tape.” He said he sees Wurster as a city manager who will be involved in the community and who will provide thoughtful options to the city council.

City Councilor Ken Hector said he was impressed by Wurster’s extensive background in public works for the city of Dallas. Her knowledge on infrastructure is critical for Silverton as the city begins to make decisions about its aging infrastructure, including its water and sewer treatment facilities, he said.

Hector said as the council went through the vetting process, it became clear she was the best fit for Silverton.

For City Councilor Dana Smith, there were several things that tipped the scales in Wurster’s favor. “With the state of our infrastructure, I found her background in public works to be particularly beneficial,” Smith said, adding Wurster also has significant experience as administrator in similarly sized communities.

Smith said Wurster’s subordinates, peers and supervisors all raved about her communication skills and pro-active nature.

“Christy listens to learn and then responds appropriately and succinctly,” Smith said.

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