PORT ANGELES — The former fire chief and once-reluctant leader who has served as the city of Port Angeles’ top administrator for six years will retire by this fall, he said Wednesday.
City Manager Dan McKeen, 62, said he told the City Council of his decision during a half-hour executive session at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday.
“I’ve had a hard time balancing my time between my family and my job,” he said. “Now, it’s time to give some of that time back to my wife and my kids and my grandkids.”
Mayor Sissi Bruch said Wednesday she would be sorry to see McKeen go.
“I knew this day was coming, I just did not know when,” she said.
“He has just been the best thing for the city.
“He’s an amazing problem solver and just a great people person.”
McKeen said he will discuss his departure with city staff Tuesday before announcing a firm retirement date.
“It was important to me before I announce to the public the date that I will retire, that I actually talk to the city employees first,” he said.
He said it’s up to the City Council, whose only employee is the city manager, to decide on appointing an interim or acting city manager when he retires.
Council members also will decide if the opening will be advertised or a permanent replacement chosen from within city staff.
Nathan West, city community and economic development director, has served as the acting city manager in McKeen’s absence during McKeen’s tenure.
McKeen said he “absolutely” would recommend West for the city manager position.
West could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
McKeen and his wife of 42 years, Jan, have two grown children and six grandchildren.
McKeen began working for the city fire department in 1985.
As fire chief, he was tapped in 2012 to be the interim city manager following the resignation of Kent Myers.
McKeen said he had to be convinced by then-Mayor Cherie Kidd and members of the community to take the temporary position.
“I found out it was something I actually enjoyed doing,” he admitted.
When he was hired to the permanent position, he told council members he would stay three years, not twice that long.
McKeen said he told his family four times during his tenure that his departure was imminent, then “reset the retirement clock” before deciding now is the time.
“The reason it’s been six years and not three primarily is that I really enjoy going to work, not that I haven’t had challenges,” he said.
McKeen said he is cancer-free after having prostate surgery in 2016 but that the experience played a part, albeit small, in his decision.
“The surgery took its toll,” he said. “I have not had quite the energy I had since the surgery that I had before the surgery.
“That had something to do with it.”
One reason McKeen delayed his retirement was because the city was “going through some very difficult times,” including the 2017 debate over Port Angeles becoming a second-class without home-rule powers, which voters overwhelmingly rejected in November 2017.
“I wanted to make sure I followed through with that and stayed with that during that difficult time,” he said.
“Prior to that was getting through the fluoride issue.”
McKeen, whose salary is $149,000 a year, took over in 2012 for Kent Myers, who resigned after four years.
Myers was paid $8,000 a year more than McKeen earns now and was slated to get use of a car as part of his contract before he quit.
Shortly after McKeen — who did not get use of a car at public expense — took office, he faced a projected budget deficit of $800,000 before developing a priority-setting process for spending and a council-directed rather than staff-directed road map for putting together annual budgets.
“The budget woes we could be seeing are so much less thanks to Dan,” Bruch, first elected in 2011, said Wednesday.
“His greatest accomplishment, in a place where things were chaotic and it was one thing after another, was Dan was a pillar of stability.
“He has brought a sense of calmness, and probably the word that always comes out of his mouth is, ‘what is the right thing to do, this is tough, but we are going to do the right thing.’
“It was such a refreshing change.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].