Lead picked for Port Townsend task force: Panel to focus on finding new city manager

David Timmons

David Timmons

PORT TOWNSEND — Former Port Townsend City Council member Catharine Robinson will serve as lead of the city’s community task force for the replacement of the current city manager, who will retire next summer.

David Timmons is the only person to have held the position. He was hired as the first city manager in 1999 when the city changed from a strong-mayor form of government to a weak-mayor form of government.

In a vote of 6-0, the City Council on Monday approved Robinson’s appointment. Council member Michelle Sandoval was not present for the vote.

Robinson was elected to the Port Townsend City Council in 2000 and has held the mayor and deputy mayor positions. Her term expired at the end of 2017.

She is a licensed mental health counselor, and has been therapist and clinician with Jumping Mouse Children’s Center since its inception in 1999.

“This was part of the plan for the transition, and council approved the plan at the end of last year,” Timmons said. “This is the beginning of the implementation of that plan.”

Mayor Deborah Stinson was authorized by the council to recommend a community task force and she felt it was important to start with the lead.

“I wanted someone to help me in that process,” she said. “It’s an important job and it’s something I don’t want to do myself.

“The reason I chose Catharine is because she sat in this arena longer than anyone besides Michelle (Sandoval),” Stinson continued.

“We won’t have just council members on the task force. But I thought it was important for the leader of that group to be a sounding board for anyone else who comes in if they have questions.”

Stinson described Robinson as “a logical choice, calm and even-handed, with a community presence that works well with people.”

Stinson expects that the task force will be composed of about a dozen people, possibly more. The initial assignment will be to develop the city manager’s profile, and the skills that will be needed in the next five-to—year period. The group will solicit input from department heads, advisory boards and council members, among other stakeholders.

“In looking at the available people. I’ve begun to put together a matrix to provide a broad representation on the task force that covers a wide spectrum of our community,” Stinson said. “I’m looking specifically at all of the different entities that we interact with on an interim basis.”

“We anticipate there will be a stack of resumes,” Stinson said. “They might be the first touch in narrowing the field.”

She suggested that some members of the task force will be part of the final interview process.

During the public comment period, Rick Jahnke of Port Townsend urged the council to reconsider the plan.

“I’d urge you to bring in an outside consultant for the process,” Jahnke told the council. “Port Townsend has seen only one city manager. That’s not a broad breadth of understanding of what a manger can do. Everyone brings their own biases to the job.

“It’s important to you to get a broader picture,” Jahnke added.

”I would urge you to try to get an independent, broader opinion of what other cities are doing to be part of the conversation and evaluation.”

Council member Bob Gray said the task force should include some of the younger members of the community who are making their careers and raising families in Port Townsend.

“That needs to be the face of our effort,” Gray said. “The ones involved are the ones who are going to make the future of this town.”

Stinson said she would welcome suggestions for members of the task force. She can be reached at her city hall office at 360- 379-2980.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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