Article by Brittany Quick-Warner, CEO of Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce
In early September, Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz announced his retirement. While he plans to remain an active citizen and stay in Eugene, I did not want to miss the opportunity to sit down with Jon to talk about his career, his accomplishments and his dreams for our community.
HOW DID YOU END UP IN PUBLIC SERVICE?
Well, my interest from elementary school on was in Forestry. I got my undergraduate degree in Forestry but couldn’t find a job at that time so I went into the military, and then went on to attain my MBA. During an informational interview with the city manager in Fort Collins, I realized that city management might be something I was interested in, so I applied for an internship and worked in several different places within the city organization in Ft. Collins.
After other formal positions in Ft. Collins, I ended up in Ogden, Utah as the Public Works Director during the Olympics, and eventually moved into an Assistant City Manager position before coming to Eugene in 2008 for the City Manager role.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU WERE ABLE TO DO IN YOUR CAREER?
Making the decision to come to Eugene was one of my best decisions as far as a place to live and call home. I also loved working in Utah during the Olympics and having the opportunity to physically build things as the Public Works Director in that community. But one of my all-time best experiences happened last fall when I got to climb a 160-foot tree with our Urban Forestry team here in Eugene. That was really cool.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED?
It is by far the importance of listening to understand people, not to change them. Understanding doesn’t mean agreement, but understanding allows trust to be built. You can’t skip those steps and expect to now have some different kind of behavior or belief without people learning from each other. Once we have built trust and understanding, we can do something collectively from our learnings.
HOW CAN OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY CONTINUE TO IMPROVE?
The business community is doing some pretty interesting things. I can see our business community taking a more holistic approach to community health, looking beyond just the simple economics to think more about quality of place, people and our environment. I think we need to keep moving on that path. The ability for the Chamber and business community to have influence is in the integration of all of those components of community.
WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING MORE OR LESS OF AS A COMMUNITY?
We need to think carefully about the story and the narrative we tell ourselves. People move toward that which we believe to be true. If you think you are going to buy a red pickup truck, all of a sudden see a lot of red pickup trucks on the road. If we always talk about our worst fears scarcity and bad outcomes, we move towards those as a community. If we talk about possibilities, aspirations or best outcomes, a transformation in the community will occur in parallel with the narrative that we use. This is where I believe we have so much potential. There are so many interesting things happening in this community right now that we don’t have to stay caught in old narratives. Let’s keep
focusing on the language we use because it matters.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR FUTURE COMMUNITY LEADERS?
Recognize the moment we are in our community’s history. The direction we go is going to be a choice; we can either choose to go forward or choose to go backward. What do we do with that? We need to make a conscious choice to keep moving forward instead of getting caught in an old narrative. There are new leaders and a different sense of possibility right now that makes me excited. I am more optimistic about this community than I ever have been.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, WHAT CAN YOU NOT WAIT TO STOP DOING IN RETIREMENT?
I am pretty excited that I can stop worrying about making sure my outfit coordinates every morning.
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