New Camas city administrator may already be on his way out

Eight months into position leading city of Camas, Jamal Fox is in running for Oregon job

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Camas City Administrator Jamal Fox

Eight months after settling into his role as Camas’ new city administrator, Jamal Fox may already be on his way out.

Fox, who took over as Camas’ top city employee in August 2020 — after the city’s seven-month search for a new city administrator — is now in the running to become the next city manager of Gresham, Oregon.

Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall held a virtual community forum on Wednesday, April 21, to introduce Gresham residents to the city’s top three candidates: Fox; Patrick Quinton, a former director at Prosper Portland; and Nina Vetter, the district manager of the Pueblo West Metropolitan District in Colorado.

According to a city of Gresham news release, Gresham leaders initially interviewed manager candidates in early 2021, but later reopened the search and had 37 candidates apply before the March 22 deadline.

The Gresham City Council will consider feedback from city staff and the community during its final interviews with the three city manager finalists on Friday, April 23, “and will determine the next steps in the process at that time.”

If Gresham City Council members pick Fox as their next city manager, the city of Camas will find itself searching for a city administrator for the second time in less than two years.

Fox did not respond to the Post-Record’s interview requests, but Camas Director of Communications Bryan Rachal sent the following statement from the City: “Current Camas City Administrator Jamal Fox has been pursued by multiple municipalities and has been named as a finalist. Knowing what type of leader Jamal is, we completely understand why. 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.”

Under Camas’ mayor-council form of government, the city administrator oversees the day-to-day business of the city at the direction of the mayor. The city administrator is Camas’ highest paid city employee, with an annual 2021 salary range of $143,400 to $171,768.

Camas hired outside consultant, conducted 7-month search for new adminstrator

Camas leaders began their most recent city administrator search in early 2020, after then-city administrator Pete Capell, who had run the city’s day-to-day business since 2013, announced his retirement in December 2019, saying the city’s change in mayoral leadership had prompted him to reconsider his role with the city of Camas.

In January 2020, Camas City Council members mulled the proposals of three executive-search consultant firms — with costs ranging from $18,000 to $28,000 — and agreed to hire Waldron, an executive search firm with offices in Portland and Seattle, to lead the hunt for a new city administrator.

Although Waldron had detailed an 18-week process that included community open houses and interviews with key stakeholders, McDonnell said in June 2020 the pandemic had put that timeline on hold.

Less than one month later, on July 20, 2020, the mayor announced in a video posted to the city’s YouTube channel that he had selected Fox, then the deputy chief of staff to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, to be Camas’ next administrator.

Fox told McDonnell in the July 2020 video that he and his wife were looking forward to moving to Camas with their young son.

“We wanted a place to lay our roots and grow our family. Camas was that community,” Fox said in July 2020, one month before starting his new job with the city of Camas.

McDonnell told the Post-Record he appreciated the work Fox had done over the past eight months.

“He showed up every day and gave it 100 percent and that’s all we could ask for,” McDonnell said. “We’ve been through a similar situation and our leadership team stepped up and will do so again. We will retain the quality of services that the community is used to and we will work to find a new city administrator, that will help continue the smart growth we have going on in Camas.”