PORT TOWNSEND — Three finalists for the city’s public works director role met the public during an informal 90-minute session at the Cotton Building in downtown Port Townsend.
Karin Hilding of Whitefish, Mont., Steven King of Wenatchee and Martin Pastucha of Bainbridge Island also had three separate interviews with selected group of panelists Monday, City Manager John Mauro said.
Mauro planned to review comment cards from the public and have follow-up conversations with at least two of the finalists on Tuesday. After reference checks are complete, an offer could be made by the end of the week, he said.
“This is a front-facing, community-facing role, and I want the community involved,” Mauro said. “This is the biggest department in the city.”
The new public works director will take the job vacated by Greg Lanning last fall when he accepted a position with the state of Wyoming. Dave Peterson has served as interim public works director since then.
The job’s salary range is posted at $115,234 to $141,020, depending on qualifications, plus benefits.
Hilding, born in Sweden, works now as a senior project engineer for the city of Whitefish. She is a walking and biking advocate who said that’s the best way to attract millennials to a town.
It’s also a movement toward the future as residents rely less on cars and fossil fuels, she said.
“The cars are going away,” Hilding said, conceding vehicle sharing may become more popular.
“In the future, you don’t have to own your own car. If you want to go to to the mountains, you can borrow someone else’s car for the day.”
Hilding worked on a climate action plan for Whitefish, which adopted the plan three years ago, she said.
As she looked out at Port Townsend Bay, she talked about areas in Holland that have green areas designed to flood with storm surge.
“I think you’re in a better situation than a lot of places,” Hilding said. “A lot of the town is built up on the hill.”
She said landscape architects are dealing with climate resilience in many parts of the world.
“How do you look at flooding not as an evil but as something that’s going to happen, so it’s part of the design?” Hilding asked.
“You have to be able to adapt and be resilient. We know that change is coming, and we have to adapt like a sailor and trim the sails.”
King, currently the economic development director for the city of Wenatchee, has been working to implement infrastructure projects that would encourage growth.
He also appreciates bicycle trails and said he’s visited Port Townsend four or five times to ride them since he applied for the job.
“You look at opportunity,” King said about public works. “Infrastructure is a pretty phenomenal part of a community, and most of the time it goes unnoticed.”
King said he’s familiar with the area because his grandparents grew up in Kingston and his father in Poulsbo.
He grew up in Omak and moved to Wenatchee in 1997, and he’s spent the past 17 1/2 years working for the city.
As a professional engineer, King has more than 20 years of experience with leadership positions, including public works and community development.
He sees some of the same issues that plague Jefferson County concerning affordable and workforce housing in Wenatchee.
“You have to invest in infrastructure that supports housing,” King said.
Pastucha, a former public works director for the city of Redmond, commutes from Bainbridge Island to his current position four days per week as the interim public works director for San Fernando, Calif.
He has spent 19 years as a director for four cities and has experience with large capital projects related to water, sewer, storm drains, stormwater and refuse infrastructure.
“I would enjoy the opportunity to see the results of my work on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
With many of the city’s residential streets in various states of disrepair — and only $100,000 to spend on them this year — he said his first step would be to conduct an assessment and use the conclusions to prioritize actions.
“You have to identify the first step going forward with what the level of expectations are for the community,” Patucha said. “Where is it, and what are the expectations?
“Everything can’t get done all at once, and not everybody is going to be happy about that.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].