Hermiston’s Very First City Manager, Tom Harper, Passes Away

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Tom Harper, Hermiston’s first city manager, died on Tuesday.

Harper was hired in March 1961 as the city’s first city manager and served in that role for the next 26 years before retiring.

Harper is often credited for his role in spurring Hermiston’s growth over the years from a sleepy little town to becoming the largest city in Eastern Oregon.

Former City Manager Ed Brookshier today said Harper transformed Hermiston’s city government.

Frank and Tom Harper
At his retirement party in 2015, Frank Harkenrider, left, poses with Tom Harper, who served as Hermiston’s first city manager. (Photo: File)

“Tom Harper was among the group of civic-minded community leaders who set the foundations for the city we have grown to today,” said Brookshier, who also served more than 20 years in the role before retiring several years ago. “He was key in establishing a tradition of professional management for our city.  He was key among that group that set Hermiston on a course of continuing growth and economic expansion.”

Former Hermiston Mayor Frank Harkenrider was often quoted as saying the hiring of Tom Harper as city manager was the best thing Hermiston ever did. In 2015, when Harkenrider stepped down after decades of involvement in city government as mayor and councilor, Harper stopped by to reminisce about old times with Harkie.

“We had a good time working together and building this city,” Harper said at the time.

Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said Harper’s impact on the city over the years was huge.

“Mr. Harper played a significant role in what Hermiston is today,” said Drotzmann this morning. “As the first full-time city manager the city had, and having served for 20-plus years, he was in a unique position of setting a course and implementing a plan that has allowed Hermiston to grow to be the largest city in Eastern Oregon.  The community of Hermiston owes Mr. Harper and his family a debt of gratitude we can never repay, as we all today in Hermiston sit under the branches of the trees he planted.”

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