Is Camas’ top administrator already on his way out?

Camas’ top administrator might pack his bags soon, less than a year after starting the job. 

City Administrator Jamal Fox has been named a finalist for the city manager gig in Gresham, Ore., according to a news release from that city. Fox is one of three finalists selected from a field of 37 candidates.

Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell announced his selection of Fox for his current position in July. 

A statement from the city of Camas released by spokesperson Bryan Rachal said that Fox “has been pursued by multiple municipalities.”

“Knowing what type of leader Jamal is, we completely understand why,” the statement reads. “Jamal’s skills, talent and leadership have been much appreciated and they have been an important part of the success the city has experienced during the pandemic. While we are saddened to possibly lose Jamal to another city, we’re also excited for the opportunity for him and his family.”

Fox could not be reached for comment. 

He previously spent about three years with the city of Portland, spending his final year there as one of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s deputy chiefs of staff. In 2013, at age 25, Fox made history as the youngest person ever elected to the Greensboro, N.C., City Council, where he served for four years. 

He spent a year at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University as an adjunct political science professor. Fox also earned a degree in political science from the university in 2010 and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Capella University.

Former Camas City Administrator Pete Capell announced in December 2019 that he would step down from his position. Capell’s announcement came after McDonnell, a write-in candidate, defeated incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk in the November 2019 mayoral election.

McDonnell, despite beginning his campaign began about a month before Election Day, was carried by opposition to a proposition on the same ballot that would have earmarked $78 million for a new community center. The bond failed with nearly 90 percent opposition.

Capell later said that he had “a target on my back” as a de facto spokesperson for the bond and other city priorities.

In January 2020, the Camas City Council considered three executive-search consultant firms to conduct a search for the city’s next administrator before landing on Portland- and Seattle-based Waldron. Cost proposals ranged from $18,000 to $28,000.

After Camas began a search for the city administrator position in January 2020, the city reviewed 67 applications for the position, McDonnell said in a video conversation with Fox posted after his hiring announcement. 

“Building trust, or rebuilding and strengthening trust, to make sure that Camasonians believe in their government, that they have the same vision, or the strategic vision that we create, they see themselves in that vision,” Fox said during that conversation, also saying that Camas was “poised for great things.”

During the conversation, Fox lauded the city’s history, parks, residents, infrastructure, schools and public safety.

“We wanted a place where we can lay our roots and grow our family, and Camas was that community,” Fox said. 

The city administrator oversees daily operations, under the direction of the mayor, in Camas’ mayor-council form of government. It is the highest paid position among city employees, with an annual salary ranging from $143,400 to $171,768.

Around Fox’s first day on the job, The Columbian reached out to him to schedule a conversation about what he hoped to accomplish in his new position. Fox has not been reachable for comment since starting in his position.

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan is a breaking news reporter and covers Clark County government for The Columbian.

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