Assistant City Manager and Planning and Development Executive Director Sarah Medary was presented with the Assistant Excellence in Leadership Award in Memory of Buford M. Watson Jr., from the International City-County Management Association (ICMA) at the December 10th City Council Meeting. Junction City City Manager, Kevin Watson, who is the grandson of the awards namesake, helped present the award along with Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz.
The award commemorates former ICMA President Buford M. Watson Jr. and honors a local government management professional who has made significant contributions toward excellence in leadership as an assistant to a chief local government administrator or department head.
City Manager Jon Ruiz, who nominated Medary for the award, appointed her to the position of Assistant City Manager in February 2009, after serving in an interim capacity for the previous six months.
“Excellence is a habit for Sarah. She finds mediocrity unsatisfying and consistently seeks ways to encourage and contribute to cultures of excellence in the City organization and the community,” said City Manager Ruiz. “Her dedication to what is possible is refreshing, and has contributed to the City’s ability to thrive during this complex and challenging era in local government.”
Medary joined the City of Eugene organization in 1996 and gained a wide range of experience and increasing responsibility through her work in the Parks and Open Space and Engineering divisions of Public Works, and with the Library, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, rising to Recreation Division Manager prior to her appointment as Assistant City Manager. This experience has given her a thorough knowledge of the organization as a front-line service provider, as well as a supervisor, manager and leader.
As Assistant City Manager, Medary led the implementation of the Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL), a framework that considers policies, strategies, budgets and processes based on environmental stewardship, social equity and sustainable economics. As a result, the TBL has become a foundation in the City’s decision-making process.
Medary has played an instrumental role in critical community projects including the Neighborhood Empowerment Initiative, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials - Track and Field, and the city’s town and gown relationship with University of Oregon (UO). By strengthening relationships and focusing on partnerships, the University and the City have worked together to see nearly $500 million of new University construction completed, collaboratively resolved neighborhood traffic and parking concerns in anticipation of Matthew Knight arena, successfully hosted two Olympic Trials that earned national recognition for sustainability efforts, and celebrated community and university champions in a parade after the 2011 BCS championship football game.
In 2010, Medary also was appointed the interim Executive Director of the Planning and Development Department (PDD). “Leading the Planning and Development Department requires credibility, sensitivity and a strong backbone,” noted Ruiz, “I chose Sarah because she has the professional and personal ability to shepherd and guide the PDD team and community. Her success as Interim Director, while continuing as Assistant City Manager, is a testament to her leadership skills and abilities.”
At the time of her appointment to PDD, the City was beginning the process of updating its 20-year comprehensive plan, Envision Eugene, as required by State law. Medary provided leadership that helped shepherd Envision Eugene through an innovative planning process involving neighborhood leaders, builders, environmentalists, businesses, housing advocates and others in a new way. By focusing on collective best outcomes rather than worst fears, the community came together to build a common vision for Eugene and how it will grow in the future. The process was recognized with a State Citizen Involvement Award and is being used as a model in other communities.
As the Planning and Development Director, Medary actively leads downtown revitalization efforts. Today, despite the recession, over $100 million of new construction and development is occurring in Eugene’s Downtown, the most activity in over two decades. Projects like the Broadway Commerce Center, a renovation by Portland’s Beam Development, the new Lane Community College campus that includes a 255-unit student-housing building, and the new Woolworth Building on Willamette Street, have filled vacant lots and inspired new businesses to locate in the downtown core.
“The best part about winning a leadership award is bringing attention to the excellent work being accomplished by the team,” noted Medary. “I am fortunate to work with a very talented group of City employees, elected officials and community partners. I’m honored to have been selected and I’m proud of the successes we have achieved during some very difficult years.”