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Changing of “The Guard” at the Lincoln County Courthouse….

County Counsel Wayne Belmont…hanging up his legals and goin’ fishin’.

County Counsel Wayne Belmont retires after 35 years with Lincoln County

NEWPORT, Ore –  Wayne Belmont identifies the common theme in his 35-year legal and administrative career in Lincoln County as “relationships, relationships, relationships.”  Six short months after being hired as an assistant in June of 1986, Belmont was promoted to the role of county counsel and kept the position through the remainder of his career. He officially retires on July 9.

     “There are so many things we can do together,” he says earnestly. “Relationships. That’s my philosophy for how you get things done. You work hard to nurture and build relationships, because working together that way is so much better than setting up silos,” Belmont said.

     Representing county commissioners and other elected county officials in all civil matters, the attorney was doing exactly what he had dreamed of when he went to the University of Oregon School of Law. Belmont began his working career as a land use planner before getting bitten by the legal bug.

     “I had a mentor from my previous career. We spent hours talking about land use law and he encouraged me to go to law school. Municipal law is what got me into law school in the first place,” he recalls.

     Belmont worked in private practice for two years before landing the job in Lincoln County. For much of his early career, he was alone in the office.

     “After seven years, I convinced the board I needed additional assistance,” he said. “The people I work with in the county counsel’s office are the consummate professionals. The fact that I’ve hired only three over all those years shows their commitment to the community and their commitment to the job,” he said. One of those he hired, Kristin Yuille, has been named to replace him as county counsel.

     His commitment to nurturing relationships went well beyond just the counsel’s office, particularly since Belmont has served for many years as a de facto county administrator. He’s never held the official title, but an attitude of “things needed to get done and I would just do it” made him the go-to guy. It is work that he has enjoyed, and he speaks highly of the 14 commissioners he has served during his 35 years.

     Mr. Belmont has accomplished much in his career, but some of his highlights are particular districts he was involved in creating. The establishment of the Lincoln County Library District. The development of the transit district that stabilized and expanded bus service throughout the county. He played a role in Lincoln County’s formation of the state’s first extension service district. He is also happy to be part of developing an animal services district.

     When others speak of Belmont’s career, they speak of commitment, collaboration, knowledge, and energy.

     Lincoln County Commission Chair Doug Hunt called Belmont’s retirement bittersweet and spoke of the void that will be created when this stabilizing force departs.

     “County counsel and county administrator are both full-time jobs, and yet Wayne has fulfilled those responsibilities admirably and with tireless dedication and selfless commitment to the county,” he said. “As a new commissioner he provided me guidance and insight to complex and controversial challenges, making the adjustment to my job so much smoother,” Hunt recalled.

     County Commissioner Kaety Jacobson had similar sentiments:

     “There is simply no better partner and collaborator than Wayne. I was told when I first joined the county by retiring Commissioner Thompson that ‘you will love working with Wayne’ and he was absolutely right. Through fires, floods, and plague (literally) Wayne has been there for staff, for the county, and constituents,” Jacobson said.

     Knowing Wayne Belmont as a humble man who would downplay any fanfare about his retirement, County Commissioner Claire Hall testified to the legacy of the retiring attorney.  

     “Although he’s always shunned the spotlight, people should know how essential Wayne’s dedication has been to advancing the important work of the commissioners and of Lincoln County. His knowledge, energy, ability to build strong working relationships with community partners will all be missed,” Hall said.

    Mr. Belmont will continue to work for the county counsel’s office on a contract basis for the next year, to assist with special projects and helping with legal matters as needed. Although he is thankful that means dramatically fewer meetings, he knows he will miss the people he worked with over the years.

     Instead, his focus will shift to some especially important individuals. Since COVID restrictions curbed travel, he is anxious to visit family members he hasn’t seen in 18 months. But most of all, he will focus his attentions on one person in particular.

     “Part of why I am retiring is to spend time with my best friend, the love of my life,” Belmont said, speaking of wife, Sal, who he met shortly after taking the Lincoln County job. “We want to spend more time together and I’m looking forward to that.”

 

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