On Thursday, Oct. 1, Auburn City Manager Jim Buston announced his retirement after 25 years of service to the Auburn community. His final day will be Jan. 31.
According to the City’s press release, Buston started with the City in 1996, creating its Information Technolo y Department. He later served concurrently as the chief information officer and the assistant city manager for 11 years.
Buston earned his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University. After graduating from Oregon State, Buston served in the Peace Corps for two years in Honduras. After spending more time in Honduras, Buston worked in the private sector in a few different software companies. He said that his time in the private sector prepared him for working in a council-manager form of government.
“It did give me the opportunity, because a council-manager form of government is a lot like business,” Buston said in an interview with The Plainsman in Novemeber 2019. “If you look at the Council, they are basically the board of directors. As city manager, I’m the chief executive officer, and my department
heads are like vice presidents.”
Buston then went to graduate school at Auburn University before starting his work with the City and creating the IT Department. He then served as assistant city manager. Buston said his time as assistant city manager was critical in preparing him for his job as city manager.
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“I think it was really important to gain that insight into the job as city manager,” Buston said. “Without that time as being assistant, I think I would’ve been very, very unprepared for the position of city manager.”
Buston was made interim city manager and then appointed to city manager in 2017 after graduating from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University.
“It’s not any secret that I did not seek the job of city manager,” Buston said. “I had intended to retire when the previous city manager was here. He just decided he was going to retire — it was kind of a surprise, so I was interim city manager after he left.”
Because Auburn uses a council-manager form of government, Auburn’s city manager is the administrative head of the City’s government. They are respo sible for the hiring and firing of City employees, advising the City Council, proposing the biennial budget and administrating adopted budgets.
Buston considers himself a bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to running a city, which plays into his role as city manager.
“I’m not an expert in any of the disciplines that are required to run a City, I just know a little bit about all of them,” Buston said. “I’m not a city planner, so I leave the city planning to the professionals. I’m not an engineer, so I leave the engineering to the professional engineers.”
There are several other skills that helped Buston in his job. Starting off, what’s most important is getting in tune with the community.
“You have to know the community, you have to understand the culture, you have to first, when you first come in, listen to people, and get the lay of the land, and understand what the dynamics of the culture are,” he said.
Buston was responsible for the reorganization of City departments in 2018. According to the City, the change improved communication between coordinating departments and programs.
“I’m beyond thankful that Jim was here to provide a steady hand of experience at a time when we had a new mayor, six new Council members and three key retirements of long-serving department heads,” said Mayor Ron Anders. “I will miss his counsel. The City of Auburn is better for his years of dedication to providing the best quality City services possible.”
Under Buston’s tenure, the City received citizen survey results placing Auburn 38 points about the national average for their perceived value received from taxes and fees. Additionally, 74% of residents were satisfied with the City’s customer service, placing Auburn 32 points above the national average.
The City also saw 1,150 new industrial jobs during this time. Seven new companies moved to Auburn, and 32 preexisting companies expanded operations. Most of what he most appreciates about his position is how he much he is able to impact the community.
“The best part of the job is knowing that what I do day to day actually impacts others in the community,” he said.
Buston guided and continues to guide the City through challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which he was able to present the biennial budget. He also oversees the safety and wellbeing of over 800 employees as they adapted to provide City services.
“The City of Auburn’s employees form a strong, high-performing organization with a well-deserved reputation for outstanding achievement, and I was honored to lead some of the finest and most dedicated public servants in the nation,” Buston said. “My time here has been a wonderful journey, and I hope to have made a meaningful contribution to making Auburn a better place for all who live, work, visit and study here.”
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