After the unexpected departure of Joseph’s former city recorder Donna Warnock and public works supervisor Jim Lewis, the city faced tough times. Sandra Patterson of Union stepped on an interim basis to keep city hall operating.
Patterson is a native of Union County and previously served as the city of Union’s administrator. She attended Portland Community College and Boise State University where she studied as an art major.
After graduation she landed a graphic design position in Boise, where she and her husband lived for several years before the couple heard the call to eastern Oregon, where good graphic design jobs are scarce.
She returned to the university and obtained a degree in rural studies with an emphasis on small town and rural county management.
“I wanted to contribute to make eastern Oregon more livable for those of us who live here,” she said. “Our biggest struggle was going away to school and not being able to come back because there wasn’t any work.”
The couple returned to Union County where Patterson initially worked as a nonprofit volunteer before landing a job with the city of Union.
Patterson left Union after a dispute with the city council there. She had planned on starting a government consulting business, but her father lived in Joseph and mentioned the city’s personnel shortage.
“I thought, ‘Well, I could help Joseph out.’ It was a bigger bite than I thought it would be,” she said with a smile. “I don’t mind; it’s a perfect time from one job to another.”
She connected with Joseph mayor Dennis Sands, and she was hired.
Patterson’s introduction to the city and its council came at the Aug. 3 city council meeting during which audience members sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in order to silence another audience member who had gone over the time limit on his public comment.
Old hat for Patterson.
“I’ve been to lots of meeting like that where people were upset,” she said. “We had physical fights in Union. This was at the beginning of my time there when Union was under a lot of turmoil. I contributed to helping fix that.”
The interim recorder enjoys her work. She takes notes about her ideas to improve the city’s inner workings for a future presentation to the city council.
“I feel great about it,” she said. “The community is fabulous, and the people are welcoming. I really enjoy that.”
The biggest challenge for Patterson is finding her place within the city government and the requirements of the job.
“I knew what needed to be done, but I didn’t know how far I could go,” she said.
Working with Joseph citizens and the staff are Patterson’s favorite part of the job.
“This is a great community,” she said. “The changes over the last 30 years are crazy, and I think they’re going to change even more -- I can feel it.”