Brant Kucera (right) will take the reins as Sisters City Manager in July. photo by Sue Stafford
Brant Kucera (right) will take the reins as Sisters City Manager in July. photo by Sue Stafford

July 2017 is a very special month for Sisters' new city manager, Brant Kucera.

Kucera is expected to take over the reins from interim City Manager Rick Allen sometime in July. Even more memorable will be his marriage on July 1 to his fiancé, Sandy Jacobs. Kucera and Jacobs met last July when they both happened to be at the same beach, and a year later they are getting married.

Kucera and Jacobs were in town last Saturday to begin house-hunting. Everything is moving very quickly for them. Their house at the beach will shortly be on the market, and they had taken Saturday off from painting to travel to Sisters for the day.

Kucera will be wrapping things up in Cannon Beach, where he has been the city manager for the last two-and-a-half years, and will be working on a contract agreement with the City of Sisters.

He is looking forward to the arrival of his 5-year-old son, Rhys, in June. Rhys, who lives with his mother in Michigan, spends his summers with his dad. He will be entering kindergarten in the fall back in Michigan.

Jacobs is a kindergarten teacher in Lincoln City and just tendered her resignation for next year. She is busy looking for a teaching position here in Central Oregon. She is qualified to teach any grade level and has a reading specialist certification. Jacobs' daughter, Emily, has just completed farrier school and is looking forward to being in Sisters.

Jacobs shared with The Nugget that Kucera told her about Sisters, "This is the friendliest town I've ever been in." They are both looking forward to calling Sisters home. Making the move to Sisters with Kucera and Jacobs will be their yellow Labrador, a cat, and a fish.

"And I would love to teach here," added Jacobs.

A native of Pennsylvania, Kucera came west for his undergraduate program at University of Idaho where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in geography. He went on to earn a Master of Public Administration from Northern Michigan University.

Prior to assuming the city manager duties in Cannon Beach, Kucera was the borough manager for the Borough of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, for six years where he supervised 32 full-time employees. Before that he was the city manager of Gladstone, Michigan, the city treasurer in Munising, Michigan, and the assistant city supervisor for the City of Moscow, Idaho.

Kucera still has family in Pennsylvania - his parents and a brother. He shared a love for model railroads with his father and still enjoys the hobby. He has N- and Z-scale models.

Kucera and Jacobs both enjoy the outdoors - hiking, gardening, and animals - and Kucera also enjoys reading and writing short fiction.

Looking forward to starting work in Sisters, Kucera plans during his first 30 days on the job "to do a lot of listening and writing." His very first order of business will be to "sit down with the City staff" to listen, ask and answer questions, and get to know them. He also looks forward to meeting with the City Council to "hear their ideas and what their vision is for the City." He will basically take time to get "the lay of the land."

"I am excited to be back in a town that feels vibrant, with an opportunity for growth," offered Kucera. "I look forward to helping shape the future in a way that benefits the community."

Kucera was chosen from a field of four candidates for the City Manager position. Jensen Strategies from Portland conducted the entire recruiting and interview process. They advertised the position, processed 42 applications, and conducted phone interviews with 28 applicants to narrow the field eventually to eight semi-finalists who were then interviewed by a selection committee of two City Councilors and two City staff.

The finalists were chosen and they were brought to town to meet and talk with all the City staff and the citizens at a public reception. The next day the candidates each had hour-long interviews with three different panels.

One panel was made up of local citizens representing various interests in the community. Another panel included local government officials from neighboring Central Oregon towns as well as the Sisters fire chief and the high school principal. The City Council was the third panel.

Feedback collected from the staff, the public reception, and each of the panels was evaluated and carefully summarized to make the task of selecting the new City Manager a fair and balanced process, giving equal weight to all opinions.

The final decision rested with the City Council, which spent last Wednesday morning deliberating, reviewing, and analyzing the data and summaries prepared for them.

According to Councilor Andrea Blum, "The Council had a great deal of community and staff input to consider before making its decision. We were fortunate to be able to reach a unanimous decision, and are eager to get to know and work with Brant Kucera. His educational background and years of city administrative experience will match well with the needs of Sisters, especially his experience and eagerness to help Sisters through an upcoming visioning and strategic planning process."

Eric Jensen and Jeff Aprati of Jensen Strategies received high praise from those who participated in the various parts of the selection process.

Community member Cris Converse "loved every minute of it and would do it again in a heartbeat."

Converse thought very highly of the job done by Jensen Strategies.

"They were worth every penny the City spent on them. Jeff (who facilitated the community panel) was respectful, thoughtful, and insightful, such a professional," Converse said.

Converse's impression of Kucera is that "he will provide stability - someone both the City Council and staff can trust."

She noted his experience, his education, and his knowledge of Oregon land-use laws as strengths.

"Because he knows Oregon law, he won't have a big learning curve," she noted.

Aaron Okura, owner of Sisters Saloon and Ranch Grill, also thought the interview process was very good.

"They (Jensen Strategies) were very professional and gave us good guidance as how to be most helpful to the process," Okura said.

He liked being able to communicate with the other community members on the panel and hear their different perspectives.

"I'm glad I did it," he added.

Okura thinks there are a number of important qualities and abilities that Kucera brings to Sisters.

"His experience with another tourism-based small town. He recognizes the importance of change and looking to the future. He has strong communication skills and was able to answer our questions concisely. He wasn't afraid to say 'I don't know' when he needed to. He has a likeable personality. He clearly understands his role as city manager. The Council are the policy makers and he's the implementer," Okura summarized.

Fire Chief Roger Johnson agreed with the others that the interview process was effective.

"It was professionally managed and all the candidates were very qualified," he said. "It was an open, transparent process."

Family Access Network representative Dawn Cooper enjoyed the process.

"We were provided with a script of questions to ask and then we could ask follow-up questions," she explained.

Cooper found Kucera to be genuine, honest, and very comfortable.

"He answered all of our questions completely. He stayed on topic and knew the most about the issues. Brant was very impressive. I think he is a good fit," Cooper said.

She thought it was refreshing to hear him speak about the importance of nonprofits to the community.

"I think the 5-0 vote is exciting," she concluded.

"I feel great about the process and where it led us," said Mayor Chuck Ryan.

He talked about how important the right fit is between the City Manager and the community.

"I think we have the right fit with Brant. He has the intangibles that are difficult to measure."