When the city of Sisters was looking to fill its vacant city manager position, it found the right candidate in its own backyard.
Cory Misley, who served as La Pine’s city manager for more than two years, took over as Sisters’ newest city manager in October. He replaces outgoing city manager Brant Kucera, who left the position in August.
For Misley, the new job represents a chance to continue working with the same set of regional contacts, while arriving in a new city that’s farther along in its life cycle than La Pine, which only incorporated as a city following a vote in 2006.
“I feel like Sisters is a great fit,” he said. “I like the small-town atmosphere.”
By his own admission, he’s joining Sisters’ staff at an interesting time for the city. He came on board right around the time the city, and other stakeholders, were finalizing Sisters Country Horizons, a multifaceted plan that will chart development in and around Sisters for at least the next five years.
“I’m coming in at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute,” Misley said.
Because of that, Misley sees his role less as charting a new course for the city, and more about coordinating with the many stakeholders who have been involved in developing the regional plan to help get the selected projects off the ground.
City and county representatives began a visioning project for Sisters Country, an approximately 8-mile section of Deschutes County that roughly follows the boundaries of the Sisters School District, in 2017. After several surveys and other forms of public input, the project leaders released a draft of its vision action plan in November. The draft, which is available at www.sistershorizons.org, is available for public comment until Dec. 28.
The plan, which community leaders expect to finalize in 2019, divides goals for the region into four core areas — Prosperous Sisters, Livable Sisters, Resilient Sisters and Connected Sisters — and identified five potential projects within each area. The projects range from adding more public art to building an ice rink to marking the region as the “Artisan Capital of Oregon.”
Misley said it’s unlikely all of the identified projects will get moving in the next five years. The key is to keep groups involved in the process, ranging from the Forest Service to the school district, engaged when projects begin to crop up.
“There’s no confusion about what Sisters Country wants, the question now becomes, OK, how do we get to work?” he said.
Misley pointed to expanding the city’s tourism season as a key theme moving forward. While Sisters has a strong tourism industry, Misley said the events are heavily concentrated during a six-month window that runs from May through October. Finding more events that can take place during the fall and winter would spread revenue out more evenly and make the city less vulnerable to incidents like the Milli Fire, which prompted a number of event cancellations during the summer of 2017.
“Sisters does tourism and events well,” Misley said.” “But is there room for improvement? Absolutely.”
Another priority is finding a new buyer for a troublesome 67-acre, U.S. Forest Service-owned parcel near the center of Sisters. The agency has been looking to sell the parcel to a developer to help fund a new ranger station, but the property remains unsold more than two years after it went on the market. Misley said the city is prepared to be patient on the property, which is located northwest of downtown Sisters, adding that he’d like to see a mixed-use development, potentially including affordable housing, eventually occupy the space. Still, he added that the city can do more with its zoning code to make the parcel appealing to developers.
Originally from Oregon City, Misley, 29, has a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from Portland State University, as well as a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University. He became La Pine city manager in July 2016.
Misley acknowledged he’s still settling in, and is currently making an hourlong commute from La Pine. Sisters Mayor Chuck Ryan praised Misley as an “up and comer,” adding that he expects Misley to stick around for a few years while the first projects from Sisters Country Horizons get moving.
“I’m very confident Cory will be here for at least three years,” Ryan said.
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