Looking back over his 47 years in city administration gives Hillsboro city administrator Larry Paine a sense of satisfaction.
“Today I look back and I say, ‘Is every community better off than they were when I came?’ and I say, ‘Yes,’ ” Paine said.
Paine, who has spent the last 12 years in Hillsboro, announced last week he would retire the last day of June.
Paine said he wants to enjoy life.
His cancer fight is spurring his decision to leave before the city’s July 1 insurance year forces him to pay full annual maximum out-of-pocket expenses in a single month.
“When I started getting better from my cancer, there were projects I wanted to get done, so I brought my ‘whipping stick,’ ” Paine said.
Those projects were street replacement and water supply upgrades.
“That was when I had to kick ass and take names,” Paine said.
When Paine first came to Hillsboro, the first thing on his to-do list was help city staff members feel empowered to do the right things.
He was aware they were on edge after working in the culture of the previous city manager.
“Everybody was afraid to do stuff,” Paine said.
He developed a habit of pulling an imaginary card out of his shirt pocket and telling people the card said, “Larry says to do the right thing.”
He gained respect and confidence, and department heads gained the ability to do what they were expected and needed to do.
Even now, he sometimes pulls an imaginary card out of his pocket, but no longer has to say the words.
“When I leave this place, I should go down and get some cards that say that,” Paine said.
One thing that has made Hillsboro a good place to live and work is that it is a community built on strong faith, Paine said.
“There are things that are built into the behavior of the community,” he said. “That has made it easier.”
Paine will draw up a list of projects being worked on and things that need attention, so his replacement doesn’t have to walk into the job cold.
Paine’s first five years as a city administrator were spent managing Jerome, Idaho. He was the city’s first administrator. It wasn’t until later he found out five years is four years longer than most first city administrators last.
His next city was Cave Creek, Arizona.
He was administrator of Baldwin City and Concordia in Kansas.
He worked in Concordia before coming to Hillsboro.
The day he interviewed for the Concordia job, the interview room was blocked off by yellow crime scene tape. The city clerk was under investigation for alleged theft of city funds.
Concordia was the first city where he had to develop a cash flow plan. Soon after starting duties there, he was asked by the treasurer if the city should cash in a certificate of deposit to make payroll.
As of now, the Paines have no plan to move away from Hillsboro. They have established a network of friends, physicians, church family, and others that are important to them. In the future, they might have to relocate to be closer to one of their adult children.