County Counsel

Washington County, OR | Full-time

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The Opportunity

The County Counsel acts as a key advisor in providing public policy and legal advice to elected officials, county management, and affiliated agencies. Within broad objectives established by the Board of County Commissioners, the County Counsel develops and implements goals, objectives, policies, and priorities. This position provides an outstanding opportunity to address the most complex legal challenges, work closely with elected and appointed policy officials, and lead a team of dedicated professionals.

A highly effective leader, the County Counsel manages the Office of the County Counsel with responsibility for hiring, directing, and evaluating staff that provide quality service internally to departments and the Board of Commissioners. The County Counsel develops and implements the office strategic plan and collaborates with staff to establish annual work plans with identified goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes. The County Counsel develops annual and supplemental budgets for the Office of County Counsel and actively monitors revenues and expenditures. This position also presents budget proposals to the Budget Committee and the Board of County Commissioners.

The County Counsel provides or oversees legal representation in all civil matters on behalf of the County and prosecutes, defends, and appeals legal actions, suits, and other proceedings. This position reviews and analyzes court decisions and pending legislation and directs the research and preparation of legal opinions, memoranda, ordinances, resolutions, contracts, agreements, deeds, and other legal documents. Representing the County in court, the County Counsel prepares and presents cases at trials or hearings and can effectively evaluate and negotiate out of court settlements.

The County Counsel reviews and interprets Federal, State, and local legislation, statutes, rules, and regulations and makes recommendations on proposed policy or procedural changes. This position also directs the preparation and analysis of proposed state and federal legislation affecting County operations. The County Counsel attends public meetings and work sessions advising on legal rights and responsibilities and other legal issues. They also approve the legal form of all official ordinances, orders, and actions of the Commissioners.

As a member of the County’s Executive Management Team, the County Counsel supports the facilitation of high quality, effective service delivery in all County programs. The County Counsel routinely advises County departments on appropriate action for a variety of legal problems and issues, particularly those involving county-wide policies or politically sensitive issues. With an equity focus, this position also assists in the full implementation of civil rights laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act, assuring best practices of investigation and tracking of client and employee discrimination and harassment complaints, and advises on appropriate strategies for mitigating systemic racism and the promotion of racial equity via the development of department, division, and county-wide policies, procedures, programs, and business practices.

Priorities

  • Quickly develop and maintain positive and productive relationships with the Board of County Commissioners. Establish trust, ensure effective communication, and proactively provide sound legal advice.
  • Establish collaborative working relationships throughout the organization. Become a dedicated business partner to the County Administrator and work in collaboration to achieve Board priorities and strategic County initiatives.
  • Modernize and continuously improve the Office of the County Counsel. Review current recommendations and consider best practices in order to structure and staff the Office to meet the growing needs of the County.
  • Identify and articulate technology and system needs in order to effectively leverage data and increase efficiency in support of performance excellence.
  • Quickly come up to speed on the current work of the Office. Actively discuss cases, develop strategies as needed, and successfully partner with the staff to provide sound legal advice on ongoing initiatives.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to civil rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) as a key organizational value. Support the County’s ongoing EDI initiative to deliver equitable outcomes throughout the County’s programs, budgets, decision-making, and service delivery.

The Successful Candidate

The County Counsel is apolitical yet politically astute, with a strong history of developing effective relationships with elected officials and providing balanced and sound legal advice. The successful candidate develops positive partnerships throughout the County, establishes a high level of trust, and actively collaborates with others to find creative solutions to problems and assist in achieving the public policy objectives established by the Board of County Commissioners. Additionally, the ideal candidate will have a vision for the Office of the County Counsel and the appropriate role the Office has in shaping and implementing public policy consistent with the Board and senior county management. With unquestioned integrity and sound ethics, the County Counsel is considered a thought partner dedicated to public service and works in the best interest of the County at all times.

The County Counsel has substantial government law experience and leverages that knowledge to anticipate issues and proactively mitigate risk. A confident leader, the successful candidate navigates controversial issues with ease and is strong enough to stand up to pressure and provide unpopular advice when needed. A highly effective communicator, the County Counsel is candid in their interactions with County officials and also enjoys coordinating and preparing responses to inquiries by the media and general public regarding county legal matters. This includes the ability to explain complex legal issues to lay employees and the public.

With a commitment to leading the equitable delivery of Washington County’s services, the County Counsel embraces change and continuous improvement. The successful candidate has an appreciation for lean management, uses data and analytics to drive decisions, and leverages technology and innovation in support of efficient operations. In addition, the County Counsel has a strong background in financial management and budget administration.

A genuine and authentic leader, the County Counsel is approachable and actively nurtures an open and welcoming environment that continues to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. The successful candidate leads and empowers staff, encouraging the development of creative options while still providing sound legal advice to complex government problems. Likewise, the ideal candidate solicits input from the team and leverages the in-depth knowledge and expertise of staff to collectively determine the County’s legal liability, vigorously defend claims, and ultimately seek efficient and effective resolution.

Qualifications

The ideal candidate will be a member of the Oregon State Bar, with at least ten years of increasingly responsible legal experience, with an emphasis on government law. A successful track record as a City or County Attorney, Deputy Attorney, or experience in a private law firm advising public sector clients is ideal. Direct leadership experience managing professional and paraprofessional legal personnel is essential. Knowledge of the principles and practices of municipal law, litigation, civil rights, and labor relations law is required, as is expertise in successful negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution.

Federal, State, and local statutes, regulations, rules, and ordinances applicable to County activities and functions, including municipal liability, public meetings, torts, land use, public records, and public financing, is required. Knowledge of civil trial and appellate procedures in state and federal courts and administrative tribunals is ideal.

Inside Washington County

Washington County is a home rule community that operates under the council-manager form of government. The five non-partisan elected Commissioners appoint a County Administrator to serve as the Chief Executive of the organization. The Chair of the Board of Commissioners is elected at-large, while the four other Commissioners are elected from districts. All Commissioners are elected to serve four-year terms.

Through a dedicated workforce of 2,253 FTEs, county services are provided through five major functional areas: General Government; Public Safety and Justice; Land Use and Transportation; Housing, Health, and Human Services; and Culture, Education, and Recreation. The County Counsel is the only department head that is appointed by and reports directly to the Board. The County’s All Funds Budget for FY 2020-2021 is $1.48 billion, of which $321 million is the General Fund Budget and $309 million is the Capital Budget.

The County works cooperatively with the cities that are wholly or partially within the County’s boundaries, five fire districts, plus Clean Water Services and other service districts to serve the County’s shared residential, business, and institutional constituents. The County provides classical county services in the rural areas, including zoning and public safety/sheriff patrols. The rural acreage of Washington County far exceeds the size of the urban area of the County, which includes cities and urban unincorporated suburban neighborhoods.

Washington County is committed to fostering, supporting, and strengthening equity and inclusion in all programs, practices, and policies, and structures the organization to model services, practices, and engagement approaches that equitably meet the needs of all residents.

Mission: Our mission is to provide excellent and cost-effective services that support healthy, peaceful, safe, and sustainable communities and encourage meaningful participation in community activities and county governance.

The Office of the County Counsel

The Office of the County Counsel represents Washington County, including the Board of Commissioners, the Sheriff, and all county departments and employees. The Office also represents the Housing Authority and some of the other County service districts. Dedicated to providing legal advice and assisting the County and affiliated agencies achieve their goals, the Office provides the full range of civil representation, including general counsel and litigation with the exception of workers’ compensation, bond issuance, and most collective bargaining matters.

With a budget of just over $3 million, the Office of the County Counsel is staffed by a talented and dedicated group of tenured employees led by the County Counsel. Eight Assistant County Counsels, two Paralegals, two Legal Specialists, a Management Analyst, and an Administrative Specialist complete the team. The Office delivers quality legal services and creative solutions at a reasonable cost while adhering to the highest ethical standards.

The Community

The area currently known as Washington County, Oregon, rests on land that was first inhabited by the Atfalati Kalapuyans, also called the Tualatin people, who flourished here for thousands of years. Settlers began arriving in what would become Washington County in the 1830s. Presently, Washington County is the most culturally diverse county in the State of Oregon. Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color have rich histories and present-day experiences that encompass living, working, recreating, and establishing businesses and faith communities in Washington County. In 2020, the Washington County Board of Commissioners publicly committed to creating an inclusive community that celebrates diversity and ensures all residents have equitable opportunities to lead healthy, peaceful, safe, and sustainable lives.

Washington County is Oregon’s second-largest county with a population of 613,410. Residents have the unique privilege of engrossing themselves in some of the nation’s finest cultural amenities without forgoing access to picturesque natural landscapes. A beacon of originality, the Portland metropolitan area is home to one of the nation’s most vibrant music scenes, internationally famous street food, an iconic microbrew culture, and a full calendar of events that is sure to provide year-round entertainment. Nicknamed the Silicon Forest, Washington County boasts Intel’s largest research and development location and share of employees and is the headquarters of Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Reser’s Fine Foods, and Leupold & Stevens.

Most of Washington County lies within the Tualatin Valley, formed by the Tualatin Mountains to the East and North, the Chehalem Mountains to the South, and the Northern Oregon Coast Range to the West and North. The County seat and largest city is Hillsboro, which is widely known for its concentration of high-tech companies and its minor-league baseball team – the Hillsboro Hops. Beaverton is the County’s second-largest city, and with a population just shy of 100,000, it consistently ranks among the nation’s best places to live. 

Rural lands and forested areas surround the entire urban area of the County. Three small, rural cities on the outskirts of the County’s urban center account for approximately one percent of the population. While 56 percent of the County resides within the ten Metro area cities, another 38 percent live in unincorporated suburban neighborhoods. Over 30,000 residents live in Washington County’s large, rural areas of farm and forest land. The County’s vibrant agricultural economy is sustained through the growing of berries, grapes, and grains.

From hiking through lush forests and nature parks to enjoying the serenity of a day at the lake, outdoor adventure is never far away in Washington County. The Tualatin Valley’s pristine rural wetlands and nature preserves are a haven for bird and wildlife watching enthusiasts. The Northern and Western portions of the County are forested and sparsely populated but offer miles of trails and bike paths. Washington County enjoys the temperate year-round climate found throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Compensation and Benefits

The County Counsel contract is at the discretion of the Board of Commissioners, with a salary range of $169,642 – $242,042. A competitive total compensation package will consider the candidate’s experience and expertise. Benefits offered to all employees include the following:

  • Medical, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance
  • Enrollment in the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System
  • Vacation, administrative, holiday, and sick leave
  • Washington County Wellness Program
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Free TriMet pass

How to Apply

Washington County values a culture of equity, diverse perspectives, and life experiences. The organization embraces innovation, collaboration, and work-life harmony, offering job stability and an opportunity to serve and support the growing, diverse community. Washington County is an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity and an inclusive workforce. Women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. 

Applications will be accepted electronically by The Novak Consulting Group. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Please apply no later than February 21, 2021.

Please direct questions to Heather Gantz at hgantz@thenovakconsultinggroup.com or 513-221-0500.

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