Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, 60, will retire next month, he announced in a statement Sept. 5. As Eugene’s second-longest serving city manager, Ruiz served in his position for over 11 years. His last day will be October 18.
“Jon has been an extraordinarily capable and steady hand on the helm of the city over the last decade,” Mayor Lucy Vinis said in a press release from the city.
Ruiz feels the timing of his departure fits into the current state of the city and community, he said in an interview with the Emerald.
“I feel really optimistic and hopeful,” he said. “I think the organization and the community are really in good places right now.”
As city manager, Ruiz oversaw the daily routines and ongoings of the municipal government, and was Eugene’s highest paid employee with a base salary of $241,155 annually, according the city’s salary schedule.
He said he feels many projects he’s been a part of during his time as manager now have a solid foundation and he feels good leaving the next phases up to his successor. These projects include the riverfront redevelopment project, to be completed spring 2021, and housing for Eugene’s homeless.
The city’s Urban Renewal Agency, which oversees economic stimulation in Eugene’s downtown and riverfront districts, recently bought 16 acres of riverfront property that has the potential to become a new and bustling riverfront neighborhood. Connecting the Willamette River to downtown and campus neighborhoods has been a long time community vision, according to the city of Eugene’s website.
“For multiple generations there’s been this vision of connecting downtown to the river and making it so much more accessible and become such a pleasant place,” Ruiz said.
According to the Register Guard, some Eugene residents have chastised the city’s political leaders for the slow moving pace of response to the homelessness crisis.
Ruiz said he feels the Eugene community was not ready to implement a 10-year plan to end homelessness a decade ago. He complimented both former and current Police Chiefs Pete Kerns and Chris Skinner for their efforts in building trust between the community and public safety officials between then and now. “If there’s low trust, you can’t do things that are bigger or faster or different,” Ruiz said.
In 2018, Ruiz and Lane County hired Technical Assistance Collaborative, a Boston, Massachusetts-based nonprofit that develops solutions to housing and community support problems for people experiencing homelessness or who have disabilities according to the organization’s website, to assist with finding an effective method for housing the homeless population of Eugene. TAC released its report in December 2018, recommending more outreach coordination, rental subsidies and low-barrier shelter expansion, among other things.
“Now, there’s much more readiness,” he said. “So we’ll move forward on the TAC plan and that will make big differences in the next few years in the whole conversation around homelessness.”
Vinis has selected Sarah Medary, the current Public Works Director and former Eugene assistant city manager who has 23 years of local government experience, as interim manager beginning Oct. 19.
Vinis said Sarah’s “experience, expertise, and strong relationships in the community and organization will provide a stable transition for the city.”
Ruiz said of his temporary successor, “She is extremely optimistic, very creative and very good at building relationships and making connections with people.”
Although Medary’s position is interim, Ruiz expressed confidence that she might take over the role permanently, saying he thinks Medary has a lot of support from the council.
“I think over the next several months she and the council will start thinking about whether or not she might be the right fit eventually,” he said. “My best hope is that she is.”