During the June 15 City Council Work Session, Sarah Medary was unanimously appointed as the new Eugene city manager in an 8-0 vote. She had been the city manager pro tem since October 2019.
In an interview with Eugene Weekly, Medary says she didn’t know that they were going to appoint her that night. Councilors explained that her last eight months in the position served as a pre-probation, and gave them an idea of her leadership skills.
“I didn’t realize how good it felt,” Medary says, of officially getting the position. “Its a difficult job, but I feel supported.”
Medary has been with the city of Eugene for over 24 years, most recently as the director of Public Works. She also spent nine years as the assistant City Manager. During the work session, Mayor Lucy Vinis and every councilor commended Medary for her work so far, commenting on her commitment to city service, integrity and how she handled the pandemic.
The City Council has appointed a committee comprised of councilors Jennifer Yeh, Emily Semple and Alan Zelenka, who will oversee the process of Medary’s contract in the coming days, which will detail her time in the position. The committee was also unanimously approved.
Medary says that though the last few months have been difficult, the COVID-19 outbreak has allowed the city to assess actionable steps in solving issues.
“All of us had to pay attention and take in what is happening around us. We already had a significant problem with housing and with COVID it was worse, not better,” Medary says. The issues in the area of housing and climate change are crucial, made more so by the pandemic, she explains.
But Medary sees the pandemic as an opportunity for growth and redesign in Eugene, which she says the city is due for, despite the national recession which will lead to city budget cuts. She adds later that Eugene has the opportunity to be a leader for the rest of the country.
After the murder of George Floyd, Medary says, she felt the “dark, heavy, emotional days” in her role as city manager. She says in exploring why it was so hard, she knew it was exactly the time to stay and make lasting impacts on the community.
“To be frank, the ultimate white privilege is to walk away when things are hard. That’s why its important to stay,” she says about the last few months.