The hugs kept coming for Lance Colley at a retirement reception for the outgoing Roseburg city manager on Thursday.
Colley’s final day will be April 30, after seven years in the position.
Family, friends, city staff, law enforcement officials, current and former city councilors and committee members, and many people who have known Colley his whole life — including one of his former teachers at Roseburg High School — gathered to celebrate Colley and wish him a happy retirement.
While people came and went throughout the 2 1/2-hour event in the Ford Room of the Roseburg Public Library, more than 40 people were listening to Colley when he gave his speech.
“This is kind of bittersweet,” Colley said. “I’ve spent 35 years in public service in Roseburg, and my entire life, born and raised across the river here.”
Before being hired as city manager in 2012, he was finance director of the Roseburg School District for nine years. From 1984-2003, he was the city’s finance director.
A photo board put together by city staff at the party featured several photos of Colley from his time as Roseburg’s finance director.
“This is a great turnout, thank you,” Colley said.
“I’m not sure what I was expecting — when I woke up at 3 o’clock from the dream that nobody showed up,” he joked. “The people I work with are what I’m going to miss most, and almost all of them are in the room, so thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
City Recorder Amy Sowa said when her position became available many things drew her here, but one in particular was that she knew Colley was “a really great guy.” The two city officials went to Roseburg High School together. “But when I got here I didn’t realize what an incredible city manager he was.”
Mike Baker, a former Roseburg city councilor, admitted to The News-Review he didn’t vote for Colley during the hiring process.
“I’m glad he proved me wrong,” Baker said.
Colley’s service to the community has extended far beyond his employment with the city, said Mayor Larry Rich at Colley’s final city council meeting on Monday. Rich listed 19 boards, organizations and committees on which Colley has served, including the allied and mental health college coalition, the Blue Zones worksite committee, the local crisis committee, the Umpqua Business Center board of directors and the Umpqua Community College Memorial Committee.
“And that’s just the list we could find,” Rich said.
City officials have repeatedly said their only regret about Colley is that he isn’t staying longer. They have been unapologetic about saying that Colley was the best city manager the city has ever had.
“His passion, commitment and dedication to this community has been unsurpassed by any previous city manager,” Rich said at the meeting.
It was the first city council meeting Janice Essenberg, Colley’s partner, attended. Colley said she was interested to see if he would cry. He didn’t, but he said his final address to the City Council was difficult.
“This is a little harder than I actually thought it was going to be, and I thought it was going to be hard,” Colley said at the meeting.
Colley said he feels good about the position in which he’s leaving the city. He was finance director when the city first created an urban renewal district, which he said has brought key growth to the area. That plan is now at the end of its 30-year term, and he’s happy he had the chance to help develop a new urban renewal plan, which will take effect next year.
“We’ve accomplished a lot,” Colley said. “One thing I didn’t think we were going to be doing was a library. And in the last year, the last two years, we went from a pretty aggressive council goal-setting process that we thought was going to be as time-consuming as anything could ever be, and then we threw in, well heck, how about a library.”
He said one of the things he’s most proud of is the cultivation of the city’s leadership team.
“The leadership team that we all have put together here I think is one of the finest leadership teams that you’ll find in a municipal organization anywhere, not just in a small community or a medium-sized community,” Colley said. “You’ve got very gifted and talented people in leadership who are going to help you face the challenges and meet the opportunities that you’ll see over the next many years to come.”
Colley said he looks forward to traveling and spending more time with his family in retirement. He has four grandchildren.
Essenberg said she and Colley are taking a trip to Rome, Venice and Tuscany shortly after Colley’s final day at the city.
Essenberg said it was gratifying to see the love Colley received at the reception Thursday.
“He cares so much about this community, so to see them give it back is really special,” Essenberg said.