Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman has announced his retirement, Mayor Jake Pieper said today.
“Gary has notified the City Council that he will be retiring in 2018,” Mayor Pieper said. “No retirement date has been set. He has agreed to stay on until a successor is selected.”
Milliman has served as Brookings City Manager for over 10 years and completed 45 years of local government service in January.
“It has been very difficult to come to this decision,” Milliman said, “and I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoy the work immensely, and the people I work with are great.”
“Recent and upcoming staff changes are really what have prompted me to make a decision at this time,” Milliman said, noting that several key staff members recently left “for greener pastures“ and that Public Safety Director Chris Wallace also plans to retire in 2018.
“This would present a new City Manager with an opportunity to shape the organization and select most of the key people who will be working for him or her to carry out the City’s program of work,” Milliman said.
Milliman said he has an excellent working relationship with the City Council. “None of the current Councilors were members of the City Council when I was hired,” Milliman said. “It continues to be a positive relationship.”
Pieper said that the City Council will be meeting to discuss options for selecting a new City Manager. “We are looking for a smooth transition,” Pieper said.
“While we have achieved a lot during my tenure as City Manager, there are many challenges and opportunities ahead,” Milliman said.
“Gary has brought a great sense of stability to the organization. He is a strong leader and manager. The City Council has great confidence in him. He will be missed.” Pieper said.
When asked to name his greatest accomplishments as Brookings City Manager, Milliman immediately put “Ten consecutive years of balanced budgets and clean audits” on the top of the list. “We have been fortunate to be able to provide a quality level of service while keeping costs comparatively low,” Milliman said.
“We have undertaken a series of major infrastructure improvements, many of which relate to public safety,” Milliman noted. “Public safety is not just police and fire, but also includes safe streets and a sound water system. We have made substantial improvements in all of these areas.”
The City’s Emergency Operations Center, which the City Council named in Milliman’s honor, has been a project with which he is particularly pleased. While this facility is standing by for use during a disaster emergency, it is also used regularly as a training facility for volunteer firefighters and many other public service providers, as well as serving as a venue for public meetings. It was used as the Chetco Bar Fire command center for several months.
Milliman currently serves as Chair of the South West Area Commission on Transportation and on the Board of Directors of the South Coast Development Council. An alternate member of the Border Coast Airport Authority Board of Directors, Milliman was instrumental in expanding the membership of that six-member agency…which manages the Del Norte County Regional airport…to include Brookings and Curry County.
He also serves on the Pelican Bay State Prison Citizens Advisory Committee and the Oregon South Coast Tourism Network board.
Milliman served as a Governor’s appointee to the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission which developed a seismic retrofit grant program for schools and public safety buildings. “I’ve had a career-long interest in disaster preparedness and response,” Milliman said. He served as a reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 18 years, responding to Presidential-declared disasters nationwide. He served as a Governor’s appointee on the California Emergency Council and chaired the Emergency Preparedness Commission for the Cities and County of Los Angeles.
He said being prepared stems from his long history of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, where he currently serves on the National Advisory Board.
Looking ahead, Milliman said he hopes to continue serving as Municipal Court Judge in Port Orford, a part time role he assumed in August. “I enjoy serving as a municipal judge and may try and pursue a similar role in other cities,” Milliman said.
He was recently named a Senior Fellow at the Hatfield School of Government, Center for Public Service at Portland State University where he will work on special projects. He plans to teach political science at Southwestern Oregon Community College beginning this fall.
“There are also some non-government opportunities that I plan to explore,” he said.
“Carolyn and I plan to stay in Brookings. When we relocated here, it really was for the long term,” Milliman said.
Milliman retired in California after having served as a City Manager in five cities and as Southern California Director for the League of California Cities. His career has included serving as a City Council member, newspaper editor and railroad President.
In 2003 Milliman stepped into the City Manager position in South Gate, California, following a period of political corruption and mismanagement that had ravaged that City. “This was probably the most challenging period of my career,” Milliman recounted. “The City was on the brink of bankruptcy and had just gone through a nasty recall election, and there was heavy influence within the community from organized crime. We were successful in restoring citizen faith in their local government, moving on a path toward fiscal recovery and resolving a number of crime related issues.” Milliman worked with the federal Department of Justice to help secure convictions of former City officials and their associates.
“We also unraveled several very complex schemes that had been employed to divert millions of dollars of City funds to unscrupulous contractors and developers,” Milliman said.
Milliman had earlier picked up a challenge in 1996 to organize a group of 17 investors to purchase the historic California Western Railroad…also known as “The Skunk Train”…which was going into abandonment. “The Skunk was an important element of the community economy in both Fort Bragg and Willits,” Milliman said. “We couldn’t let it go.” Milliman left his 17-year position as Fort Bragg City Manager to become President of the railroad corporation.
“The experience gave me new respect for small business owners who deal with challenges like making payroll,” Milliman said.
Milliman received the 2012 Career Excellence Award from the 9,000-member International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the ICMA Management Innovation Award two decades earlier. He is a Credentialed Member of ICMA and has joined in their program to promote professional city management in China.
A Master of Public Administration graduate from the University of Southern California (USC), Milliman completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University and a municipal court judges program at the National Judicial College. He is the first-ever recipient of the USC Certificate in Disaster Preparedness and completed several programs at the FEMA Emergency Management Institute.
Milliman holds both Bachelor and Associate degrees in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter and editor early in his career.
Milliman and his wife Carolyn are natives of the Los Angeles area and both graduated from Bell High School, where Carolyn was the Student Body President. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.