Archive for the ‘Pat Farr’ Category

Letter from the Chair to Lane County staff, welcoming the new administrator. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


I wrote this letter to all staff members of Lane County regarding Steve Mokrohiski, our new County Administrator.  It was delivered Monday April 21:

To Lane County Staff:

I am thrilled to be the Chair of the Lane County Board of Commissioners at this critical and exciting point in Lane County’s history.

Steve Mokrohisky was chosen as new county administrator after a long and deep search had presented the board with a field of highly experienced and qualified finalists.  His selection was the culmination of many hours of recruiting, interviews and screening that left us with a clear choice for leadership in this county organization.

I met with two County Commissioners from Douglas County Nevada (where Steve was serving as administrator), who confirmed to me that we were making the right choice.  They did this through their initial demonstration of unfriendliness toward me, the Chair of the Board that was spiriting away their chief.  Happily it was only a show of rancor, however, which turned to congratulations followed by lengthy discussions of the great work he had done in their county.  They described to me the various means of enticement bordering on coercion that they had employed in trying to keep him there.

But to no avail.  Steve Mokrohisky accepted the job in Lane County and is moving here with his wife, who is a nurse practitioner in Nevada, and their two young children. His first day as our County Administrator will be May 5.

He has confided in me that among the attractions of the job were the challenges that we will face addressing current and future needs of this community (the size of Connecticut) and significantly the resources we have in place to ensure success—in particular the professional staff who work here.

I spoke with Steve on Friday about how his first few days and weeks on the job will transpire.  He has told me in no uncertain terms that his success will not be possible without the men and women who work here first feeling supported and successful in the multi-faceted work they do.  And I have been assured that his initial energy will be funneled toward ensuring that support and success.

I am personally looking forward to seeing our work—that of the staff, the administrator and the board—unfold over the coming years.

I would like to thank you in advance for the satisfying work in which we will together be engaging.



Pat Farr,

Chair, Lane County Board of Commissioners

How to be a Hero: Making Shepherds’ Pie. by Pat Farr

Saturday, April 19th, 2014


Every now and then I am going to add something that is nothing to do with policy, strategy or news.  Here’s a sample:

                       SHEPHERDS’ PIE

My mom always called it “cottage pie”–likely because it was made with beef not lamb.  I actually never heard of “shepherds’ pie” until I moved to the United States.

It doesn’t have to be plain or rugged.  This recipe allows for a great deal of latitude in ingredients and timing–not unlike effective policy making as I have tried to practice it at the local and state level.

Shepherds' pie April 13 2014

I made this particular version one Sunday in April 2014 for our traditional Sunday Dinner.


  •   2lb   Ground Sirloin
  •   3lb.  Russet Potatoes, mashed (making the potatoes is a critical step in the perfect pie)
  •   1-1/2c.  Chopped Carrots
  •   1c.  Chopped Onions
  •   1c.  Chopped Celery
  •   1/2c.  Frozen Peas
  •   1/2c.  Frozen Corn
  •   1c.  Asparagus Spears (or your choice of green veggie)
  •   4c.  Rich Beef Stock
  •   1/4c.water and 3T flour, smoothed together
  •   Ground Pepper
  •   Minced Garlic
  •   Butter
  •   Paprika
  •   Mushroom Gravy

Brown the beef in a large sock pan or sauce pan.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and spices.  Stir and cook until the onions are clear.  Add the beef stock and simmer like soup until the carrots and celery are tender.  Add the flour/water mix and thicken.  Add the peas and corn and simmer until all is warm.  This can now be set aside or refrigerated until cool.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 2-inch or so cubes   Rinse them until the water is clear.  Boil in salted water until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain, reserving 2c of the water.  Add 4T of butter and about 3/4 c half and half.  Whip with hand held mixer or in a KitchenAid food processor.  Allow to cool with a lid on.

In an oval 4″ deep casserole, ladle in about 3″ of the meat and vegetables from the soup.  Spread the asparagus on top evenly.  Place the potatoes in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag and cut out a 1″ triangle from the corner.  Pipe the potatoes evenly over the meat and vegetable mixture.  Spread with a fork, forming furrows and peaks.  Shake paprika on the surface and place in a 325 degree oven until the top of the potatoes begins to firm.  Brush melted butter over the top and place under the broiler until the top becomes golden brown.

Serve with mushroom gravy (my preference).  YOU ARE NOW OFFICIALLY A HERO!

Enjoying Sunday Dinner:  Shepherds' (or cottage) pie with Dad and Lois, October 2013.

Enjoying Sunday Dinner: Shepherds’ (or cottage) pie with Dad and Lois, October 2013.


New Lane County Administrator spends his first hours on the job. by Pat Farr

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014


Steve Mokrohisky watches as I sign his contract

Steve Mokrohisky watches as I sign his contract


On his way to his first day on the job in Lane County Steve Mokrohisky’s connecting flight from Seattle to Eugene was cancelled at 10:30 pm on Thursday March 20.  With the type of tenacity we can expect from our new administrator he scrambled for transportation in order to not miss his initial 7:00 am Friday meeting in his new venue.

He arrived in Eugene at 4:00 am and looked bright eyed and ready for action when he and I met first thing in the morning.

The meeting was not an earth-shaking event, but he listened and contributed as Commission Vice-Chair Faye Stewart and I worked through the details of the agenda for our April 1 Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Following the meeting Mr. Mokrohisky and I signed the official contract of record for his appointment to become Lane County’s Administrator.

He had stayed late in Douglas County NV on Thursday to attend a meeting of his current Board of Commissioners there before catching his (soon to be prolonged) flight to Eugene to meet with the officers of his new Board.  While in Lane County he also met with Mayors Kitty Piercy and Christine Lundberg of Eugene and Springfield and the two cities’ managers Jon Ruiz and Gino Grimaldi.

He subsequently returned to Nevada for county business there and will be back in Lane to start work full time on May 5.

Commissioners unanimously approve Steve Mokrohisky to be new Lane County Administrator. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014


Commissioners (2) crop


On March 11 Lane County Commissioners unanimously approved the contract for new County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky.

Following is the transcript of a conversation I had subsequent to hiring Mr. Mokrohisky.

Steve Mokrohiski:

Hi Commissioner Farr,

Thank you for your support of my appointment and contract.  I am truly honored to serve the Board as your next Administrator.  I take this responsibility very seriously and I am committed to earning the trust of the Board, employees and public.  We will work hard to implement the priorities of the Board.

I want you to know that I have been and will continue to be in regular contact with Alicia Hays, Howard Schussler and other County staff to coordinate logistics and get up to speed on issues.  I will be in Lane County next Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22 to visit schools and neighborhoods with my wife, Liz, and our oldest daughter, Mary.  I have meetings planned next Friday morning with Alicia and additional staff to discuss the budget and other issues. I will also be in Lane County on April 17 and 18 to participate in the selection of an outstanding Human Resource Director for Lane County.

I am working with Diana Jones to begin scheduling important meetings when I officially begin on Monday, May 5th.  As such, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to spend time with each Commissioner.  I’d like to schedule a few hours to get to know you: your interests, your district, your priorities and your expectations of me.  If there are any individuals and/or groups in the organization and community that you would like me to connect with, please let me know.  I will need to balance many demands and manage my time effectively, but with your support I would like to begin building important relationships.

Thanks again and please let me know if you need anything from me over the next few weeks.

Steve Mokrohisky

I replied:

Good morning Steve,

I am pleased to welcome you to our home, our community, our county and our team.

After spending time at NACO with Douglas County (NV) Commissioners Doug Johnson and Lee Bonner I am even more confident that you will be a valuable part of our ongoing mission in Lane County to create openness, diversity, trust and accountability through a productive and supportive work environment for the professional staff you will be joining here.

I am excited to work with you in determining how your first minutes, hours, days weeks and months on the job will give you the strongest possible foundation to build your legacy with Lane County.  It will be my pleasure to work beside you with staff, commissioners, other local and state jurisdictions and associations in order for you to use your acquired and natural skills to build lasting partnerships.

I look forward, also, to spending more time hearing Liz and joining others in helping her to adjust to her new home.  I am convinced that you and your family will find this to be a welcoming place and one where you can combine a fruitful professional setting with a fun, energetic and nurturing place to live.

While family events of yesterday precluded my in-person participation in the important step of a unanimous endorsement of  your hire, the miracle of technology allowed my voice (and therefore my vote) to be present.

I will talk with you soon.

Pat Farr, chair
Lane County (OR) Board of Commissioners

An impromptu panelist at National Association of Black Counties. by Pat Farr

Friday, March 7th, 2014


Heavy snow in Washington DC gave me an unexpected opportunity

Heavy snow in Washington DC gave me an unexpected opportunity


I attended the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington DC March 1-5 2014.

National Association of Black Counties (NABCO) is a broadly-membered confederation of county officials across the country.

I have been speaking with former Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green responding to his criticism of the lack of diversity in applicants that our recent search for County Administrator produced.  While the national search Lane County conducted produced the best qualified county administrator with impeccable credentials and references (see story here) I have taken former Commissioner Green’s concerns very seriously.  I regarded the meetings of NABCO at the Legislative Conference as an opportunity to find ways to diversify future searches by the Board of Commissioners or by the County Administrator.

I have not been disappointed by contacts that  I have made in Washington this past week.

On March 3, Monday, it snowed heavily in Washington DC.  My first agenda item at the conference was to attend the 9 am meeting of NABCO.  It was a panel discussion with a large group of students from the Washington area to address questions about involvement in public service and address health issue education, particularly surrounding sexually transmitted diseases.

When I entered the room only two people were there, the NABCO administrator and another young woman.  I asked if I had the wrong room, and they told me that I was in the right place but the start of the meeting was delayed because the panelists and the audience had been held up by the blizzard.

It worked out ok for me though.  The second woman in the room was Paige Hendrix, assistant to Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.  Commissioner Smith and Ms. Hendrix are both deeply involved in the diversity efforts of Multnomah County.  While we waited for the panelists and students to arrive Ms. Hendrix and I engaged in a 45-minute discussion about recruiting qualified applicants from communities of color.

She gave me a host of contacts and set the stage for a discussion between Commissioner Smith and I later in the conference covering the subject.

Toward the end of our discussion the group of students arrived and filed into the meeting room.  There were a hundred or so.

As it turns out the entire group of panelists had not yet arrived, so I was asked to sit in on the panel to respond to questions about public service.  I was honored to do so.  The students were very attentive and eager to learn.

While it wasn’t the way I had planned to spend time at the conference it turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for me to not only pass along knowledge but to gain insights into how I can become more effective in my elective roles.

We spent the morning discussing avenues high school and college students could prepare themselves for work in public policy or elective office.  It was pleasing to me to see tomorrow’s leaders listening and learning.

Lane’s new county administrator choice is a good one. by Pat Farr

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


Steve Mokrohiski, Manager, Douglas County, Nevada

Steve Mokrohiski, Manager, Douglas County, Nevada

Lane County’s Board of Commissioners authorized its Human Resource Director Howard Schussler to offer a contract for the County Administrator job to Steve Mokrohiski on February 27.   I voted in favor of the authorization along with Commissioners Pete Sorenson, Faye Stewart and Jay Bozievich.  Sid Leiken cited a short selection process as his reason for voting against the majority.

Mokrohiski is an excellent choice for the position.  His background includes serving as senior adviser in Milwaukie, Wiconsin, County and currently as County Manager in Douglas County, Nevada.

The process for selection involved a nationwide search conducted The Prothman Company which resulted in 26 qualified applicants.

Commissioners had narrowed its list of finalists to five before the extensive interview and discussion process.  Two panels made up of staff, government officials, union chiefs, District Attorney Alex Gardner, Sheriff Tom Turner and County Assessor Mike Cowles conducted separate interviews.

Prior to the Commissioners’ final discussion, held in executive session, all county department heads gave input and advise in a closed session with the Commission.

I am pleased with the process used in this selection and confident that the extensive time spent in research, discussion and deliberation have given Lane County an excellent choice in a new administrator.

I spoke with Mr. Mokrohiski after Schussler had presented him with the terms of his contract.  He told me that he will spend time discussing the offer with his wife and family before rendering his final decision on acceptance.

His current board has expressed a strong desire to keep him in his current job, and I expect that they will make him a lucrative offer to stay in Douglas (Nevada) County.  I anticipate hearing from him soon.

His orientation period will be aggressive, spending structured and detailed time with department heads and their staff, with other local government managers and with individual Commissioners touring and familiarizing with their five districts.

His job will not be an easy one.  I outlined five areas that he will be expected to demonstrate skills and aptitude:

1.  Trust:  establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with staff, other local jurisdiction managers and our community.

2.  Budget management and innovation:  leading the county through what have been rapidly diminishing general fund dollars due to decreased federal O&C lands timber harvest payments.

3.  Leadership:  a broad term that involves facilitating the best manager/staff/community teamwork.

4.  Communication:  ability and propensity to inform and be informed.

5.  Understanding of local and Oregon laws and processes.

I look forward to working closely with Mr. Mokrohiski and with the Board of Commissioners and staff, leading the county in the coming years of economic growth, stability and service excellence.

Candidates for Lane County Administrator position. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014


Today, Lane County announced the top candidates to fill the Lane County Administrator position.

“Each of these candidates bring important experience and skills to the table,” said Pat Farr, Chair of the Lane County Board of Commissioners. “We are looking forward to the next steps in the process where we will see who will be the best fit for our community and staff.”

The five finalists for the position are as follows:

Ronald Bates, City Manager for Pico Rivera, California

Christopher Jordan, City Manager for West Linn, Oregon

Jeffrey Mihelich, Assistant City Manager for Surprise, Arizona

Steve Mokrohisky, County Manager for Douglas County, Nevada

Travis Myren, Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Administration for Dane County, Wisconsin

The Lane County Administrator directs and coordinates overall management of the County government in accordance with policies set by the Board of Commissioners. The Administrator reports directly to the Board of Commissioners.

The candidates will be interviewed on Thursday February 20 by the Board of County Commissioners.  Additional interview panels, which will provide feedback to the board on their impressions of the candidates, will conduct interviews on the same day.

The two panels are:

Panel A :

    1. Marsha Miller- Public Works Director, Lane County
    2. Beverlee Hughes – Executive Director, FOOD for Lane County
    3. Gino Grimaldi – City Manager, City of Springfield
    4. Alex Gardner – District Attorney, Lane County
    5. Tony Black – I.S. Director, Lane County
    6. Laura Potter – Director of Business Advocacy, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce
    7. Howard Schussler – Assistant Public Works Director/Interim Human Resources & Management Services Director
    8. Bill Cornell – President, Lane County Peace Officers’ Association (LCPOA)
    9. Karen Gaffney – Acting Director, Lane County Health and Human Services – Panel Facilitator


Panel B :

    1. Tom Turner – Sheriff, Lane County
    2. Alicia Hays – Acting County Administrator, Lane County
    3. Mike Cowles – Assessor, Lane County
    4. Jim Robertson – Chair, Lane County Public Health Advisory Committee
    5. Jon Ruiz – City Manager, City of Eugene
    6. Brenda Wilson – Executive Director, Lane Council of Governments (LCOG)
    7. Lori Green – President, AFSCME Local 2831
    8. Brad Rusow – President, Lane County Association Local 626
    9. Christine Moody – Budget & Financial Planning Manager, Lane County – Panel Facilitator


Hiring a new Lane County Administrator. by Pat Farr

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Lane County logo blue

“County administrator’s firing tops list of the year’s biggest news”


This was the headline of the Register-Guard’s  “Year in review” article last December 22 covering the top news stories of 2013.  It trumped this top ten list compiled by the newspaper:

1. Liane Richardson: Administrator fired for changing her pay

2. Homeless/SLEEPS: Battles over where homeless can camp

3. Police scandals: Accusations fly in Springfield, Eugene

4. Public safety levy: Voters OK money measure for county jail beds

5. Student housing: Developers seek to cash in on UO students

6. Forest plan: Wyden, DeFazio champion bills to increase logging

7. Downtown buzz: Heart of Eugene comes alive with businesses, bars

8. Civic Stadium: Competition intense on how to develop school-owned property

9 (tie). Plastic bag ban: Eugene bans plastic bags at retail outlets+

9 (tie). UO football: A bowl victory, a new coach, a Heisman candidate

10. Big chill: Cold snap brings week of freezing temperatures

This week, Lane County’s Board of Commissioners will begin the final steps for hiring a new County Administrator.

The county’s last two administrators left under less than glowing circumstances.  Liane Richardson was fired and Jeff Spartz left after only three years on the job.  It is imperative that this Board’s hire is one who will be prepared to stay with the county for a period long enough to implement the important policy decisions that will be directed throughout the next three years.  It is also essential that the new staff chief will fit in well with the existing culture, both internally and externally in the community.

The Board has narrowed its list of finalists and will conduct interviews this week.  A full schedule of the Board’s meetings for this week, including dates and times of public and executive session meetings can be seen HERE.

On Wednesday, Commissioners will meet the candidates and have an informal reception.

Interviews will happen on Thursday, and the Board will meet in executive session Thursday and again on Friday to review the interview sessions.

I anticipate a job offer being tendered as early as next week.


Commissioners must facilitate a productive and supportive work environment. by Pat Farr

Sunday, February 9th, 2014


Lane County logo blue


The Board of County Commissioners has a responsibility to provide a productive and supportive work environment for Lane County employees.  In light of that, we have to be sensitive to the courage displayed by those who stepped forward providing information regarding the misdeeds of the former administrator.  All staff members, in this case in particular the whistleblowers that came forth honestly and forthrightly, need to feel safe in their workplace.

The Register-Guard has pushed to have the names of the whistleblowers released.  I personally agree that transparency must exist in all levels of government at all times, and initially I opined that any report could be released in its entirety (See RG report here).  However, while a full disclosure of the names of non-elected staff members would provide greater transparency in our decision making, that release of names would jeopardize the staff members’ supportive work environment.

Additionally, release of the names would expose the County to potential litigation on behalf of those employees.  As stewards of both the public trust and its resources, the Board needed to be sure that we would not be sued for releasing names of our hardworking employees who brought this matter to our attention as whistleblowers.  Early on, we offered to release the investigation report to the Register-Guard if they took responsibility for any lawsuits that would ensue from their release of information. They declined and continue to ask for the release of the names. With a judge’s order (County officials vote to release full document) on February 7 in this partial settlement, we have been prudent stewards of the public’s money while doing all we could to protect the identities of the whistleblowers.


Bethel School District Soars. by Pat Farr

Thursday, February 6th, 2014


Willamette High School girls won the state 5A basketball championship last year.  And they are ranked #1 entering the final weeks of this year’s season.

Annah Hickey, a Willamette High School senior, won the highly competitive Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce Future First Citizen award last year.  This year another Willamette High School senior, McKenzie McCausland, won the award.

Bethel School Board member Debi Farr congratulates WilHi Senior McKenzie McCausland on her selection as Future First Citizen

Bethel School Board member Debi Farr congratulates WilHi Senior McKenzie McCausland on her selection as Future First Citizen

Willamette High School, Bethel School District

Willamette High School, Bethel School District

And this just in:  Willamette High School and the Bethel School District has the highest public school graduation rate in the Eugene Springfield area.   See the story:  “Bethel Graduation Percentage Soars.”

Congratulations and thanks are in order for the students, parents, staff, administration and school board for the discipline and effort it takes to excel in education.