PORT TOWNSEND — The search for Jefferson County’s administrator — the CEO who steers a $60 million budget — started and stopped last year, then began again. Now it’s wrapped up with a man who was there all the time: Mark McCauley.
“I’ve always liked hard jobs. I like variety, and you can’t get much more variety than you find in a county,” McCauley told the Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday.
So even if McCauley, 65, was “eyeing retirement in December,” he’s primed to work with the county commissioners to execute their spending plan and, as District 1’s Kate Dean has said, to look for new ways to solve problems.
McCauley, who served in the Army for two decades — mostly in personnel and finance — and later became Clark County’s manager, moved to Jefferson County five years ago. His position was central services director until, in late April 2021, longtime Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley resigned.
At the time, Dean, then chair of the Board of Commissioners, said she wanted to find a new administrator who would “think differently about the future. Where we can afford to think about things differently,” she said, “I’d really like to find someone who is thinking about innovation.”
Jefferson County continues to grapple with big, controversial projects including the Port Hadlock sewer and the Caswell-Brown Village encampment for homeless people off Mill Road. McCauley worked with the commissioners to establish the village last year.
“We were confronted with a serious problem: the unhoused population at the [Jefferson County] Fairgrounds,” he said.
“The Caswell-Brown Village is a very innovative approach to that very difficult problem.”
Caswell-Brown, named after two homeless people who lost their lives in 2020,** cost some $600,000 to set up, and is managed by the Olympic Community Action Programs; this week the commissioners discussed its expansion with OlyCAP executive director Cherish Cronmiller.
The fairgrounds, meanwhile, have returned to their function as a venue for events, such as the Jefferson County Fair coming up on Aug. 12-14.
Upon Morley’s departure last spring, McCauley became interim county administrator while the commissioners prepared to search for Morley’s successor. By fall they had selected Ethan Raup, chief operations officer at Seattle’s KEXP public radio, as the top finalist. It looked like Raup would be taking the position. But in October he decided against moving forward, saying his time at KEXP wasn’t over after all.
The commissioners opted against following up with the two other finalists they had interviewed, and put off restarting the search until after the winter holidays. The three appoint a county administrator to serve at their pleasure, without the typical hiring processes required in other public sector positions.
In announcing McCauley’s appointment, the commissioners said he had brought fresh, effective leadership to the county. Heidi Eisenhour, now the chair of the board, added that she — and other county employees — appreciate McCauley’s “steady hand and extensive experience in county government.”
As interim county administrator, McCauley’s annual salary has been about $153,000, said human resources manager Sarah Melancon. His new salary is still being negotiated, she said Tuesday. The advertised range for the job was $135,000 to $160,000.
District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton said that back when he was considering candidates who’d recently applied, he made a list of attributes a county administrator should have.
“Mark fit all of them,” Brotherton realized. So he asked whether McCauley was interested in staying on. The answer was yes.
“The county has been in a very stable position under Mark’s leadership,” added Dean, “and we see no need to disrupt the progress we’ve made during otherwise uncertain times.”
For his part, McCauley said he’s grateful for the confidence the Board of Commissioners is placing in him, and is excited to keep working with the commissioners and with the some 300 county employees.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz @peninsuladailynews.com.