First, contractor Eldon Smith welcomed Hussell and invited him to what would be the new city hall. They entered the former Eagle Thrift Market, and peered at was then just a shell of a structure. “What do you want in here?” asked Smith. Hussell was a bit speechless. Smith was asking for Hussell’s plan to turn the open space into offices for a city hall. Needless to say, that was hardly on the agenda for the first day for a new Eagle Point City Administrator.
The second surprise came when then Police-Fire Chief Dave Strand advised Hussell he felt the city had a problem. Strand explained that Eagle Point had a volunteer fire department and that the volunteers worked, leaving Strand and Gary Shipley of the city public works department, about the only local folks who could respond quickly in case of a fire.
“I think the world of him,” said Dave Strand, now retired Eagle Point Police chief. “He was great to work for. I can only recall one or two times we had a disagreement. We would talk, square it away and agree to move forward.”
Hussell learned very quickly there was a lot of work ahead. But he also learned that the previous administrator, John Luthy, had worked to get much needed infrastructure underway. That included a 3.6 million gallon water storage reservoir and getting rid of the city’s sewer lagoon and turning to Bear Creek Sanitary Authority for that service.
A graduate of Portland State University with a degree in business and psychology, Hussell spent some time in the Navy. When his tour of duty was over, he ended up in the unemployment line when someone tapped on his shoulder and offered him a job interviewing instead of being interviewed.
In December 1971, Hussell was hired to help relocate a city and soon became city administrator of a city on the move. Bonneville, Washington, population 8-900, had to move to make way for improvements at Bonneville Dam. While the move only amounted to about a mile, the permits and process was as though the community was being moved 3,000 miles. Hussell found himself testifying before Congress upon four occasions. He got to know Scoop Jackson, Warren Magneson and Washington Governor Dan Evans. He learned despite their powerful positions, they treated people with respect. And Hussell found he could learn by listening.
Finally absolutely everything that had been the former Bonneville was moved and Hussell also felt, mission accomplished. It was time for him to move. He became City Supervisor (administrator) of Selah, Washington, a community about the size of Eagle Point, and headquarters for Tree Top.
After five years, Hussell became Street Traffic Operations Manager for seven years in Yakima, Washington. He supervised a staff of about 50. Listening and watching, observing good and bad management methods, once again he was ready for a change.
When the Eagle Point job opened, he was more than ready to deal with a small town and a small staff.
“This has been the best place I’ve ever worked,” said Hussell.
Fourteen years ago, Eagle Point had everything in front of them, said Hussell. “City hall bond, fire department, sewer, school and library bond. Every one of them passed. People recognized the value, they wanted to be better. It’s that spirit that drives this city.”
“People in Eagle Point allow city staff to do their job, which is reflected in the city council and allowing them to create parks and recreation and economic development commission. The council has been allowed to do its job setting policy with virtually no negativity.”
“I don’t know anyone who is more community minded,” said Joe Kellerman, city attorney. “He has always sacrificed personal awards in favor of the community. I’ve never seen a city administrator more community minded.”
“Dave’s dedication and expertise has shepherded this city into 2012 in really good shape,” said Mayor Bob Russell. “He is well respected for his management of people and the budget. Sometimes he has been misunderstood when a citizen doesn’t get what he wants, as Dave does what he firmly believes is best for the city,” said Russell.
Michael Cavallaro, executive director Rogue Valley Council of Governments, got to know Hussell through Regional Problem Solving (RPS). He said he believed some people associated with RPS learned that big things can come from small packages, that is just because Dave Hussell represented a smaller community did not mean he lacked in ability and thought.
“Eagle Point’s best interest was in his heart,” said Dick Converse, principal land use planner for RVCOG. “He would ask tough questions. Once he was satisfied with the answer he would defend a position, He could persuade and had the ability to move forward. He was always wanting to know,” said Converse.
Hussell says his greatest pride has been the people employed by Eagle Point. “Outstanding, very supportive, loyal people who have accomplished miraculous things.”
“My greatest ride is to have hired nearly all of them. I’m blessed to be part of what’s going on here. It’s all about success in the community, city council and staff.”
Former Mayor Leon Sherman who worked as police chief, later as a councilor and then mayor of Eagle Point, experienced six city administrators, including Hussell. “ It hasn’t been just a job for Hussell, It been caring for the community. He saw that public works helped with Christmas decorations; his support for city council was unbelievable. He could think outside the box. “He was easy to deal with and cares so for our community,” said Sherman.
As for the future of Eagle Point, we’ve worked hard to prepare, with more infrastructure, water and sewer each will last for 20 years. Eagle Point has opportunity to support what it can be tomorrow through Regional Problem Solving, noted Hussell. .
“Dave has a good vision for the community, maintained control over growth and excelled in the infrastructure issues,” said Council President Alan Curriston. “ He is a good person, able to work with a big variety of people.” Curriston said Hussell has had 23 bosses (councilors) in the 14 years he has been our city leader.
When asked if he had any sadness about leaving, Hussell said after 41 years, it is time for fresh eyes, which are always good. But Eagle Point will remain home for Hussell and his wife, Mary. There will be an open house for Dave on Thursday, Mar. 29 at 5 p.m. in the Ashpole Center.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent