This opening interview is with Scott Dreher, the City of Hillsboro, Oregon’s Capital Program Manager. “Innovation, high tech, and creative urban gathering places meet hometown values, green spaces, and family-friendly tradition. That’s Hillsboro, Oregon,” according to their website. This is a public works staff dealing with demanding deadlines and competing priorities, in an engaged community that expects the best from their tax dollars at work. Scott oversees a $50M annual program and a staff of 15. Frank Lippert caught up with him recently and asked a few questions.
FL: Describe the most important thing you consider when selecting a consulting firm.
SD: For me, the most important thing is a cohesive and complete team. I like to see teams who have worked together and formed proven relationships on projects. I would rather see a team that knows each other, instead of me knowing the entire team.
FL: Tell me more about cohesiveness in team? Can you expand?
SD: By cohesive team, I mean the people know each other and know how to work together. It’s especially noticeable in interviews. If the first time your team is meeting one another is the interview, it really shows. Good rehearsal can help, but nothing matches proven experience working together. That
doesn’t necessarily mean the experts have to be in one company. Lots of teams come together from different companies with a good plan to work together. Those with long-term working relationships, company to company, really get it.
FL: Nothing stays the same. The consultant selection process is changing. How do you see it evolving? If you could change it, how would you make it better?
SD: For me, it’s all about the relationships that I have with people and they have with each other. I follow good people and the changes made in their careers, employers, etc. People move around. We are building flexibility into our long- term on-call contracts (seven years) with an option to update the consultant list annually as qualifications change.
FL: Annual updates sound expensive. How would this work?
SD: Updating annually is critical. As people or groups of people move around, we want flexibility in our options. Recognizing proposals and interviews are expensive, the idea is to select a group of firms initially, then ask for simple annual updates to their materials – as needed, when needed. If we’re working with a company and no significant changes, no update is needed. If a company loses or gains a significant amount of staff, we want to know that. Having a dynamic on-call like this allows us to follow people more closely. It’s the people and the trusting relationships we’ve built that gives us the most return.
FL: Describe your best consulting relationship. What makes it work?
SD: My best experience with a consultant is one where the project manager really understands the City’s needs. The project manager listens, communicates often, challenges when necessary, and applies a lot of common sense. It also helps when there is an excellent design team who works well with the project manager.
FL: What does “communicates often” mean to you?
SD: Yeah, that can be a couple of different things. The PM I’m thinking about looks at the project from different discipline angle and gathers the issues. She emails routinely (more in crunch times, less when things are moving along), gets answers and clarification, and then moves forward. Answering questions quickly as they come up isn’t always easy.
FL: Why is that? Why can’t consultants get answers to design questions more quickly?
SD: City staff has a lot going on. Some of their duties include customer service, developer assistance, and keeping development on track. There is an operations and maintenance side of things as well. All of our projects are important to us, so we need time to answer the questions in a focused, smart way.
Scott is a straight shooter. He doesn’t beat around the bush, and what he says is what he means. He’s also classic Gen X, with an emphasis on relationships and people. That could be interpreted that Scott only likes to work with people he knows, but that’s really not the case. There is a lot of great talent out there, and he knows it. Get to know him, he’s a great guy.
Scott Dreher | Capital Program Manager
City of Hillsboro, Oregon | Public Works Department
phone 503-681-6118 |email email@example.com
web www.hillsboro-oregon.gov | Twitter @cityofhillsboro