Hermiston’s first in-house city attorney begins working Thursday, Sept. 30.

The Hermiston City Council at its Sept. 13 meeting approved Richard Tovey as the successor to Gary Luisi, who retires after 23 years from his role as the city’s attorney the day Tovey starts.

Luisi, however, is a private attorney with his own local office. As city attorney, Luisi was under contract but was not working in city hall, so he was not at the “beck and call” of city employees, Tovey said. For city staff to reach Tovey, all they will need to do is stop into his office, call or email.

Tovey said he is looking forward to serving Hermiston, and he is earning high praise from both his future and his past employers.

“We are very excited to have Richard start his service as our in-house city attorney,” Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith, said. “It is a great time in our growth and movement forward as a community.”

Tovey leaves his position as the deputy prosecutor in Morrow County Sept. 28. His former boss, Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson, said he was pleased with Tovey.

“We’re greatly going to miss Richard,” Nelson said. “That’s not just me, as district attorney, but all my staff.”

Tovey became deputy district attorney to Nelson shortly after Nelson took office in 2010. Nelson called him a close colleague, an equal and a friend. Tovey’s departure, according to Nelson, is a loss for the county, but a gain for Hermiston.

Nelson said he wants Hermiston to know it is lucky to have him.

Tovey: past, present and future

Tovey, who grew up in Irrigon, went to Riverside High School in Boardman. After graduating high school, he went to Linn-Benton Community College and later Oregon State University. While there, he majored in history and anthropology.

“I thought I would become a history teacher,” he said. Instead, he decided to attend the University of Montana School of Law to become a lawyer.

He took the bar exam in 2004 and passed. This began his career in law. He worked for the district attorney’s office in Coos County, starting in 2004 and lasting until his employment for Morrow County more than five years later.

“It was a good opportunity to come back to the area,” Tovey said about returning to Eastern Oregon. He liked being the deputy district attorney, and he admitted his latest move is a bit unconventional.

“It’s not the most common career move,” he said.

Becoming city attorney involves a pay cut, according to Tovey. Still, there are benefits and the city job is attractive. One plus to the new work, his new office is only a few miles from his Hermiston house.

He said the city council and others in Hermiston have been very warm in welcoming him. Throughout the interview process, he felt accepted and appreciated. It made him feel comfortable with this job.

Tovey, like Luisi before him, will represent the city council at meetings and assist the policy body when needed. He also will work with the city manager and city departments in reviewing contracts and providing legal advice.

He will have an office in the Hermiston Public Library for now, which is serving as the temporary location of Hermiston City Hall. When the new city hall is complete, Tovey said he believes he will move into that building.

He will have no other jobs while serving as Hermiston’s city attorney, he said.

Tovey is married and has four children. His oldest child, a boy, graduated from Hermiston High School in 2020. He has three daughters — a high school student, a middle school student and an elementary school student.

Describing himself as “boring,” he said he is a 46-year-old family man without many hobbies. His main interests, he said, are helping his children in their sports. Sometimes, he serves as assistant coach.

He also is an active and involved member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hermiston.

Tovey said he is happy about working for Hermiston. He said he expects to stay in the position throughout the time his children are in school. He may even continue as the Hermiston city attorney until his eventual retirement.

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