I have been writing a column for either a local newspaper or website for at least the last 15 years, and I am always surprised by the number of people who take the time to read what I’ve written. This column, however, is dedicated to someone who proudly admits that he almost never reads my reflections.
Our City Attorney, Jim Delapoer, celebrated a birthday this week, which prompted me to write some well-deserved comments about his service to the City of Albany. Jim began working for the City in 1977 as a young graduate of the University of Oregon Law School. His mentor was Merle Long, who eventually turned over all city attorney duties to Jim in the late 1980s. Jim has been providing valuable advice to Council and staff members ever since.
Unlike many cities, the city attorney’s office in Albany is not a gatekeeper or barrier to getting things done. Jim generally asks what we are trying to accomplish and then works collaboratively to get it done. He’s not shy about criticizing an idea he believes is inconsistent with either law or good practice, but he’s always willing to help find the right way to achieve an outcome that’s good for Albany residents.
I can think of many occasions where Jim’s advice and judgment have saved the City large sums of money and/or helped us avoid expensive litigation. He doesn’t win every case, but he wins most of them by avoiding problems before they become cases.
I have been fortunate to work with several great city attorneys in my career, but I believe Jim has more local government experience than any of them. He passes on the benefit of that experience to our organization with a great sense of humor and complete candor. Jim’s humor sometimes masks his serious commitment to ethical behavior and important principles. I know he would never support an action by anyone at the City if he believed it to be unethical or illegal.
This column is beginning to read a little like a eulogy, which I guess is appropriate for someone who will never read it. I should add that praise is often a nice substitute for other more tangible forms of compensation. I believe Jim has delivered far more value to the City than he has received, and I know he has sacrificed opportunities to earn more in an effort to help the City during tough economic times.
It has been a privilege to work with Jim over the past nine years, and I wish him well during this birthday week. His commitment to Albany is evident in the many years he’s invested here and in his genuine concern for the people of the community that I see nearly every day.