NEWPORT — County Counsel Wayne Belmont has been Lincoln County’s primary legal representative since President Ronald Reagan’s second term.
During the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Belmont was recognized for 35 years in the county’s employ. He joined the counsel’s office two years out of University of Oregon School of Law in 1986 and became county counsel the next year. Commissioner Kaety Jacobson noted that she was five years old when Belmont started working for the county.
Belmont plans to retire in July, though he will likely continue to work by contract on ongoing projects, such as development of new short-term rental regulations, as well as assist with the transition to new staff. He’d intended to retire last year but stayed on to help the county weather the coronavirus pandemic.
Belmont is both county counsel and administrator, effectively the county manager, and directly involved in the whole spectrum of county business. He took on the dual role incrementally during his tenure, which saw Lincoln County’s population rise by more than 10,000, year-by-year adding new tasks to his area of responsibility.
Rather than replace Belmont, the county is seeking a candidate to act only as the county administrator, and will separate administrative functions from the counsel’s office, which will continue to operate with its current staff. The budget committee also included an additional full-time equivalent position in the proposed 2021-22 county budget to pay an assistant administrator.
Board Chair Doug Hunt said, “Wayne’s really been doing the jobs of two people, and with a pandemic and other challenges that have been presented in the past year plus, he’s been very overworked.” He said the board hopes pulling administrative duties from the counsel’s office will help streamline both operations.
“As much as I’d like to say we’ll have a new county administrator on July 1, we may not make that date,” Hunt said. “There may be a few days where there won’t be any overlap, but Wayne will be there to provide support. He’s made it very clear he’s not going to vanish or leave the county in a tough spot.”