Scott Lazenby is a lot more interesting than he looks.
Not that he is not interesting at first sight. After all, he is the city manager for the City of Lake Oswego, and right away you can tell he is a sophisticated, intelligent gentleman, and a pillar of the community type of guy, the man with the answers. Whether it’s a mega project that will affect this city’s future for decades or a barking dog crisis, he is ready to take the lead.
But what is really interesting lies beneath. Underneath the suit and tie, and competent, friendly surface is a fellow who does some amazing things; such jumping on a motorcycle and riding thousands of miles to the great Southwest, and being the author of five books, and being a true man of the world who has lived in places all over the globe, a genuine cosmopolitan.
Lazenby admits, “I have a lot of 16-year-old boy still in me.” You might even find Lazenby swinging from the trees, which he recently did at a session of Lake Oswego Leadership. From the grin on his face it seems like he is having the time of his life.
Actually, almost all of Lazenby’s times have been good since he came to Lake Oswego in 2013. He had been a happy man as city manager of Sandy for 21 years, but Lake Oswego looked even better. In fact, Lazenby had his eye on the city manager’s job here for quite some time. While he was very content in Sandy, he thought Lake Oswego would be a little bit better.
“I had been in the same county all of these years,” Lazenby said. “I knew the players here and the city had a great reputation. It would mean going to a bigger city with bigger challenges. The only other job I looked at was Metro manager. When it comes to issues, Lake Oswego is very similar to Sandy – trees, barking dogs and sewers.”
Plus much bigger stuff, such as the water project. Nothing will have more bearing on Lake Oswego’s future, but there are also a number of major projects that will change the face, and the nature, of Lake Oswego, including the huge apartment complex nearing completion on the Wizer Block, the new maintenance center and the North Anchor project, which will include a new library, city hall and police headquarters.
One difference between LO and Sandy that Lazenby has noticed is Lake Oswego’s citizens are much more vociferous.“In Sandy it’s more live and let live,” he said. “People are more outspoken here. But there are so many good people here.”
Lazenby’s entire life has prepared him for a position where he has to handle anything thrown at him, especially disgruntled citizens. He began crisscrossing the globe from the day he was born in Delhi, India, 63 years ago. Because his father was an executive with the Caterpillar company Lazenby kept on the move for years, living in Algeria, Geneva, Hong Kong, and Australia.
It was in Geneva at age 7 where Lazenby made the stop
that would change his life when he met his future wife Sandy, also age 7. Of course he didn’t propose to her right then but she gave him food for thought. “I thought she was extremely cute,” Lazenby said. “As seven-year-olds, our most romantic adventures were playing kickball together on the school playground.” When they were both age 23, the now lovestruck couple became wedlocked in Peoria Illinois.
After bouncing all over the world, Lazenby and his bride were ready to settle down when he decided upon a career of taking care of city business. After a couple of stops in Vancouver WA and Glendale AZ the Lazenbys sank their roots deep in Sandy. Did he take it as an omen because your wife was named Sandy?
“Yes I did,” Lazenby said. “And still people there forgot her name.”Despite this, the couple’s years in Sandy were pretty much ideal. But having a streak of adventure in him, Lazenby had an idea about moving to Lake Oswego, and that happened five years ago after the long-time CM Doug Schmitz moved to California. Lazenby has been serving as CM at a crucial time in LO’s history.
Still, that hasn’t been quite enough to keep him busy. Lazenby has authored five books, and he is still writing up a storm in his spare time. His experience has a city administrator has played a key role in his work.
“My first book was on city budgets, the rest have been in fiction,” Lazenby said. “John Grisham, a lawyer, started the trend of writing about lawyers so maybe I’ll start a trend about writing about city managers. It could be a whole a whole new genre. My first book was entitled ‘Playing With Fire.’ The sequel is called ‘State of the City.’ The original fictional City of Trillium in the 2001 novel was, ironically, a city of 40,000 just south of Portland.” Hmmm. Sounds like Lake Oswego. Surely his next book will be exciting stuff and involve much more than an outbreak of barking dogs; maybe a tidal wave, swarm of locusts or an earthquake.
When Lazenby is not writing about adventures he is having them. One of the greatest of them came recently when he jumped on a motorcycle and rode 3,500 miles to Sante Fe, New Mexico. He had a passenger, too. His wife Sandy rode on back for the entire distance. “She has a streak of adventure, too,” Lazenby said. “That’s one reason we’ve been married for 40 years.”
Retirement is in the not too distant future for Lazenby and he has given thought to the legacy he wants to leave.“I’ve changed the way that budgeting is done in Lake Oswego,” Lazenby said. “Most cities budget the way they did 100 years ago. This city has 330 employees and there is no way to micro manage each one of them. You have got to trust department directors to make the right financial decisions and not have the ‘spend it or lose it’ mentality. Instead, departments become more creative, and you’ll actually have better control of the outcome.”
As an example of the Lazenby way, “Our fire department was able to buy two engines with savings. In the past we had to figure out how to pay for it.”
Of course, Lazenby plans on having some heavy duty fun in retirement, and he and Sandy will surely go off on many adventures. He believes Lake Oswego is the perfect place for retirement.
“I look forward to taking field trips at the ACC,” Lazenby said.And something else.
“I think I’ll try to write the great American novel.”