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Ucc_shooting
Umpqua Strong run canceled in 2019

Now that Umpqua Strong has officially canceled its 2019 9K & 5K run/walk because of a lack of volunteers, organizers are hoping to bring the event back in 2020.

For the past three years, the run/walk was held every year on the weekend around Oct, 1, the date of the 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College that killed nine people. It was a way to honor those affected by the tragedy in 2015, unify the community and raise money for community grants chosen by families of the UCC 9.

Umpqua Strong announced the race was canceled on its Facebook page on June 18.

“Our plan is if we get the people, or volunteers, to come and help participate in planning and organizing this event then our plan is be back next year, in year five,” said Lynn McAllister, Umpqua Strong board member, secretary and treasurer.

Umpqua Strong was able to find volunteers to help in the days surrounding the event, but struggled to find year-round volunteers.

“It takes months and months of planning and organizing to put on an event such as this and we start in January,” McAllister said. “There are so many job duties that have to be completed within that time frame.”

Since announcing the race was canceled, there have been two meetings to start planning the race in 2020.

The next planning meeting will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at Stewart Park. Anyone is free to attend and ask questions.

McAllister said the organization is looking for 10 to 20 volunteers on the planning committee. The July 8 meeting was attended by two people and the following meeting by four people.

Last year the event had 747 participants and raised around $27,000 that was dispersed to organizations chosen by the families of the nine people who died in the shooting. In its second year, there were 942 participants who raised approximately $30,000 for Greater Douglas United Way and the Umpqua Community College Foundation.

The first race, in 2016, came a year after the shooting and drew more than 2,000 runners and walkers from around the world who raised about $60,000 in donations for the UCC Foundation’s memorial scholarships.

“Those nonprofits just will not have that additional money coming in this year, but they will potentially see it next year,” McAllister said. “It really does benefit the community.”


Roseburg_government
As city manager, Messenger says she'll be committed to public service and data-driven policy

In the 72 years that the City of Roseburg has employed a city manager, all 13 have been male.

But that’s about to change, as Nikki Messenger will soon take the most consequential government position in Douglas County’s largest city. As city manager, Messenger will oversee all city departments and 170 city employees, taking direction from the City Council.

She said she’s ready for the job, and that she’s the right person for it.

“I’ve got a lot of experience with the organization,” Messenger said.

She has been the public works director since 2008, making her the most senior department head. But she first worked for the city in 1995 as an engineering technician. She rose through the ranks of the Public Works Department early in her career. She spent a couple of years away from the city working for Roseburg-based MAP Engineering Inc. and for Douglas County Public Works before returning in 2006.

“I’ve always been just a little bit nosy since the day I started. So kind of just listening to what’s happening in other departments, asking questions. I have a broad high-level, not down in the weeds, understanding of what the other departments are working on. It’s just part of that natural curiosity of always asking questions.”

As an engineer, Messenger said she plans to move the city forward during a transitional moment by relying on evidence-based policy. Officials look to finalize plans for an allied and mental health college, capitalize on a new urban renewal district and make progress on issues such as housing and homelessness.

She’s also ready for the challenge, she said, adding she still has a lot to learn about how to be Roseburg’s top official.

She didn’t expect to become the city manager when former City Manager Lance Colley announced his retirement last September, she said.

The city advertised the position twice. The first time, city officials weren’t interested in any of the candidates. The second time, the City Council conducted lengthy, multi-stage examinations of several candidates. Councilors made their pick in April, but days later, the final candidate withdrew from the hiring process.

Messenger said her choice not to apply for the job during either of the city’s recruitments was about timing more than anything else.

“My husband just retired, supposedly last August, but really at the beginning of the year. I was reluctant to take on more responsibility at a time when he was retiring so we could go do more stuff,” she said. “But here we are another eight months down the road from when this first started.”

She would have wanted to be the city manager eventually, she said, adding she initially hoped the city would find someone who could teach her more about running the city. But when that didn’t happen, the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve had an opportunity basically dropped in my lap, how do I not pursue that,” Messenger said.

People at all levels of the city and several people on the City Council reached out to say she should pursue the job, she said. The encouragement played a role in her decision to do so when the City Council offered her the position.

“It’s been very humbling having so many people encourage me,” she said. “I’m one of those people who can’t take a compliment to save my life. I’m better with criticism probably.”

And scrutiny will come sooner or later. “You can’t make everyone happy,” Messenger said.

If scrutiny doesn’t come from citizens directly, it might come from city councilors, who, as elected officials, will suffer at the ballot box if citizens are unhappy with the city.

Messenger said the decision-making method she’s always had is the best way to create effective policy and justify choices.

“I’m data-driven,” she said. “I like for decisions to be defendable, and data helps to do that. Listening to the experts to help reach the right decision.”

But the responsibilities of a city manager are broader and more social than the often formulaic tasks of being an engineer.

“Not everything we do around here has data as much as it did in my public works world so that will be a challenge,” Messenger said.

As the top city official, city managers have to serve as the face of the government, meeting residents and making connections. And as a self-described introvert, Messenger said there will be a learning curve for her.

“It’s not a handicap,” she said, adding it allows her to be a diligent listener and observer. “It’s just realizing, OK, I’m an introvert, so I need to manage how I spend my energy. I need to make sure I get a certain amount of alone time during the day, which usually means for me being a the gym.”

She will continue to improve her public speaking skills, she said, but meanwhile, she already has ideas to improve the city.

One thing that’s high on her list is increasing the city’s emergency preparedness.

“After Snowmageddon, that was pretty obvious, there were some things that we need to work on,” Messenger said. She’s going to bring more measures to bolster the city’s preparedness to the City Council, she said.

She’s thankful Colley, the former city manager, was able to bring in smart, capable, hard-working people to the city, and that she has communicative working relationships with them. She’s going to lean on them substantially early on, she said. Additionally, when she becomes the city manager after the City Council finalizes her contract, she will have to hire her replacement as public works director.

Before she takes the position, she wants residents to be confident in her commitment to public service.

“Customer service is our business. Yes, we have product in that we deliver water and other things, but our product is really customer service. That doesn’t mean that everybody is going to like the answer they get, but that everybody gets an answer to their question, and that they’re informed. It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of that.”


Sutherlin
Sutherlin High School gym finalizes snowstorm repairs

Repairs to the Sutherlin High School gymnasium, caused by February’s record snowstorm, are on track to have the facility ready for the first day of school.

The school had to outsource its physical education classes, locker rooms, choir practices and student-athlete weight training to Sutherlin Middle School and other local facilities during the school year while repairs were taking place.

The damages to the gym totaled approximately $2 million, said Terry Prestianni, superintendent of the Sutherlin School District.

“We had a snowstorm that created some serious damage at our high school in our gym complex, which includes multiple classrooms, and some damage to our activities center,” Prestianni said. “Our classrooms that were a part of that complex and the locker rooms were all accessible by the end of the year … we’re waiting on the gym floor to be completed.”

Representatives from SERVPRO were on the scene overseeing repairs within three days of the initial storm, Prestianni said.

The gym’s floor and roof had to be replaced because of water damage. As the snow melted, the water seeped in through the ceiling and damaged the roof and floors, said Sutherlin High School Principal Kevin Hunt.

“Basically the gym was at the point where it didn’t have — we didn’t have the ability to resurface it again, so it had to be replaced,” Hunt said.

The storm hit one year after the gym’s floor was resurfaced. The project cost about $200,000 and ended up having to be torn up because of the storm.

“That was last summer’s project,” Prestianni said. “Then snowmageddon came and the floor that we had just resurfaced was no longer good.”

Josh Grotting, athletic director of Sutherlin School District, said moving the physical education classes to the middle school took some coordination to make sure everyone had time to change and get to class.

“We got through it, made the best of it and we’re looking forward to getting back to some normalcy,” Grotting said.

The damages to the weight room, which were used for student-athlete conditioning, caused some of the local gyms, such as Anytime Fitness and the Body Shop Total Fitness, to work with coaches so they could have the athletes use their equipment, Grotting said.

The high school choir had to move its practice to the middle school library as well.

“The choir and band room, they moved to the middle school library and had classes at the middle school library for approximately two and a half months,” Hunt said. “A library is not set up acoustically for music and band.”

Hunt said SERVPRO has done a “wonderful job” handling the repairs.

“It’s all coming together, we’re looking forward to having the school back together at the beginning of the school year,” Hunt said. “We’re really looking forward to the fresh look and what feels like a new gymnasium and no construction workers around. That will be nice.”