City of Wilsonville General News

Posted on: November 18, 2015

Wilsonville City Attorney Mike Kohlhoff Retires After 35-Year Career

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After serving as the Wilsonville City Attorney for the past 35 years, Mike Kohlhoff announced that he is retiring from the position effective Nov. 30, 2015. The City Attorney is one of only two City employees, the other being City Manager, who is directly appointed to the position by the City Council.

Kohlhoff, among the longest serving and most experienced City Attorneys in Oregon, first began practicing law in Wilsonville in 1975 and then began providing legal counsel to the City in 1980 as part of a contract to develop the City’s Comprehensive Plan, a state-required local land-use plan consistent with Oregon’s statewide planning goals. In August 1981 Kohlhoff was under contract with the City to serve officially as the City Attorney while also maintaining a private law-practice in Wilsonville. In October 1990 he joined the City as a full-time employee, becoming the City’s first on-staff City Attorney — a position he has held ever since.

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said, “Residents and businesses of Wilsonville are most fortunate to have had Mike Kohlhoff serve as the City Attorney for a critical time in the City’s period of formative growth and development. Much of Wilsonville’s high-quality development is attributable to equitable public-private partnership agreements that he helped to engineer. His keen intellect and vast understanding of relevant law, along with his flexibility and ability to work well with past and present City leadership, are some of the characteristics that have made him an outstanding City Attorney.”

Kohlhoff graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1966, where he had a double major in Political Science and Theater and served as student body president and lettered four years on the college tennis team. He then graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1969, when he became a member of the Oregon State Bar.

Kohlhoff then began his legal career in 1969 as a Deputy District Attorney for Multnomah County, before moving to private practice in 1972. Besides municipal law, his practice included complex transactional matters in business and real estate as well as several high-profile murder and civil-rights cases in the state and federal courts.

During his more than three decades’ long tenure spanning seven different City Managers’ administrations, Kohlhoff has been instrumental in helping the City develop much of the legal framework that currently guides all aspects of the City’s programs, services, code and development process. Not only did he participate in the drafting of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, but he has also been involved in numerous other major projects including:
• Use of an innovative and cost-saving design-build contract to construct the $45 million Willamette River Water Treatment Plant completed in 2002.
• First use in Oregon of a design-build-operate contract to govern the major capital upgrades and long-term operation of the $44 million expanded wastewater treatment facility.
• During the ’90s helped develop and pass a state law that is still in use today which allows cities to link approval of development applications with having adequate public facilities to serve the new proposed development.
• Represented the City and won a case in the Oregon Court of Appeals that distributed $750,000 to 120 displaced low-income/senior residents of the former Thunderbird Mobile Home Park as part of a City ordinance to compensate in part evicted tenants.

In contemplating moving to retirement, Kohlhoff states, “I am going to miss the people — the citizens, our team here at the City and the past and present mayors, city councilors, and city managers. Wilsonville is a great community full of so many caring people.”

Throughout his career and in his free time Kohlhoff also served in a number of legal and other volunteer positions for a wide variety of organizations. From 1985 to 1995 he served on the United States Tennis Association’s board of directors and as a vice-president of the USTA. He also served on the League of Oregon City’s city attorney association executive committee for a three-year period (2006–08), including as the organization’s chair in 2008. He has also served as president of the Pacific Northwest Tennis Association, as a board member of the Cascade Ski Club, and as president of the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce.

The Wilsonville City Council has decided to retain Kohlhoff legal services on a part-time basis starting Dec. 1 for the next six months to work on specific projects currently in process, including the Willamette Water Supply project. On Nov. 16, the City Council named current Assistant City Attorney Barbara Jacobson as Interim City Attorney.

In retirement Kohlhoff plans to spend more time with his six grandchildren, assist his spouse with other business interests, play tennis and travel.

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