SEQUIM — Sequim City Council members have closed the deal with their new city manager.
The council approved the hiring of Matthew Huish officially on Sept. 30.
The move came with another 4-3 vote in a virtual special meeting just a few days after the same vote went forward to send an amended contract to Huish on Sept. 27.
He currently serves as chief city administrative officer for Sandy, Utah.
A city press release last Friday announced his hiring and start date on Nov. 1 — one day before the Nov. 2 general election when five city council seats are up for a vote.
Mayor William Armacost said via press release the council is excited to welcome Huish.
“His extensive and varied professional career will be an asset to Sequim,” Armacost said.
“He is returning to his roots in the Northwest and his desire to give back. His daily decision-making centers on maintaining a life of integrity, transparency, collaboration and fairness.”
Elements of his contract detail that Huish will make an annual salary of $180,000 and receive $17,000 in relocation expenses, plus city retirement and health benefits.
A majority of council members voted Sept. 27 to omit a $2,000 stipend for temporary housing and related expenses if he cannot secure permanent housing prior to relocation.
Council members Rachel Anderson, Brandon Janisse and Tom Ferrell opposed the contract on Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, with Anderson and Janisse expressing concerns in separate interviews about the contract amount and proximity to the election.
The contract for the at-will employee states there is no fixed term, but Huish and the city said they hope for at least a five-year term.
Along with city benefits and state retirement, Huish will receive pay adjustments based on annual performance reviews by the city council, the contract states.
If Huish’s employment is terminated with cause (i.e. convicted of a felony or misdemeanor), the city will only be obligated to pay for accrued compensation and benefits, according to the contract.
If his tenure is terminated for any reason other than cause, Huish receive a full year’s salary and health benefits.
He’ll also take leave without pay to provide assistance to Sandy city leaders through Jan. 3, 2022, as they hire a new administrator, the contract states.
Huish said via press release he’s “extremely excited to be joining the amazing team at the City of Sequim.”
“I hope to find ways to augment the already incredible successes that Sequim leadership has operationalized,” he said.
“Listening to all the stakeholders throughout the community will be key, especially initially,” Huish added. “I am looking forward to being a part of such an engaged community.”
Huish said he grew up in the Seattle/Tacoma area and served as a physical therapist before he made a transition into healthcare administration and later city administration. He’s lived in Utah for 21 years.
Huish was selected after a three-month search and two days of interviews in September by city staff, council and community members.
He will follow former city manager Charlie Bush, who resigned in January after a majority of council members called for his resignation.
In the city’s press release, Huish said he plans to continue focusing on resident, business and staff satisfaction.
“I have complete trust in being able to achieve the City Council’s goals of being a model municipality in the region,” he said.
Huish will work with interim city manager Charisse Deschenes, who was a city manager finalist and took on the interim role in February; she’ll return to her duties as assistant city manager on Nov. 1.
Council members also voted 4-2 — with Ferrell unable to vote due to an internet connection issue — for Deschenes to return to the assistant city manager position.
In an interview, Janisse said he supports Deschenes but felt the new city manager contract was a “bit much to handle with two cities” and could add more burden to the existing staff when Huish takes leave to work for Sandy.
“The ‘no’ vote is because I wanted to wait until he’s 100 percent ready to start here,” Janisse said.
Anderson said in an email that she supports Deschenes as assistant city manager and wanted her to remain in that role “until a more reasonable contract was made with Mr. Huish.”
Armacost noted during the Sept. 30 special meeting that Deschenes’ interim city manager contract stated she’d return to the assistant city manager role once someone is hired. He said council members are “extremely grateful” she is helping with the transition.