Former Burns resident makes move from Olympia
by Lindy Steeves
Kraig Cutsforth has been appointed the new city manager (CM) of Burns. Cutsforth will work with former CM Don Munkers until Friday, Dec. 20, to learn the ropes and acquaint himself with the position.
Cutsforth, who, until recently lived in Olympia, Wash. and worked for the state, said he is excited to get away from the city and return to Harney County.
“I was here in the ‘70s for five or six years,” Cutsforth said. “I went to grade school, junior high, and part of high school here. So I have an idea of what Burns is, and I think that will help me out.”
Cutsforth graduated high school in Pendleton, then eventually found his way to Washington. He stated that he is especially excited for his house to sell, so that his wife can join him in Burns.
“When I worked for the state up in Washington, I did a lot of HR and things like that for the state for different agencies,” Cutsforth said.
He also commented that in the 12 years he lived and worked in Olympia, he had also worked in the state unemployment department, but wanted a change of pace and scenery.
“I applied for this job because I have a daughter that just turned 18, and it’s time for me to be able to take back my life,” Cutsforth said with a laugh. “A lot of the reason I was up in Washington was because of her, to give her a place to be and a place to grow up. Now I think it’s my turn to come back and help some of the communities I’ve been at. And I really wanted to get out of the traffic and out of the people. That’s a lot of the reason I came back.”
With CM Munkers stepping down and three newly elected city councilors, Cutsforth admitted that it would be a learning process for the whole group, but said he was excited to get to know the council and the community so that they could best serve the needs of Harney County.
“The one thing you have about Burns, or any other small community, is you can’t come in and never make huge changes. I think that’s a fallacy in many people’s minds. My goal is to make the day-to-day operations as efficient as I can, not to say they’re not efficient right now, because this is my first week, and I just don’t know yet. But, this first year, my goal is to look at what Don [Munkers] has done, and bring some of the things up to the 21st century, like personnel policies, computer systems, some operations, etc. I’ll probably take a lot of ideas from the city council. It looks like they’ve got a good one now that it’s all full. And then I want to slowly put changes in as they occur. I imagine that they’re going to be pretty minor at first. And many changes will depend on the opportunities that come around,” Cutsforth said.
He did state that he wished he had a little more time with Munkers before he took the reins, just to learn as much as possible, but that he was looking forward with what he’d learned already.
“I have a very short period of time to work with Don to learn what he’s doing, what he’s done, what he forsees, and where I’ll find my challenges and opportunities,” Cutsforth said.
Cutsforth said that he didn’t expect or plan on any large changes, and he didn’t feel that was what the city of Burns was looking for.
“Being on a city council is not something new to me; I was on the Hermiston City Council for seven years during the ‘90s, in a very robust environment. So it will be interesting to take it a little bit slower here. But that’s what I like,” Cutsforth said.
Cutsforth said that he mainly planned to concentrate on policy and operations.
“The main areas you have here are your airport, the fire crews, the police, and the relationship with the city, county, and Hines. I assume that’s where I’m going to spend a lot of my time.”
He also stated that one of his main goals was to make minutes, budgets and meetings more transparent to the public. “We have nothing to hide,” he said. Cutsforth hopes to do this by working with the council and upgrading the council’s website by posting the information online. Cutsforth also said that he was excited to learn and “figure things out” with the new council members.
“It’s going to be a learning process for all of us, but I think that this will wind up being a good time to start because I get to develop with them,” he said.
Cutsforth commented that he was looking forward to input from the community and hoped that there would be more from Harney County than areas he had experienced in the past.
“I think you’ll see me at quite a few of the other meetings that are occuring at first. At least to introduce myself with the county commisioners, Hines and the chamber. And I plan to understand what’s happening at the planning commision and be as accessible as possible. I’m not going anywhere,” Cutsforth said.