On the job now as city manager for the City of Sequim, Matt Huish said he is interested in getting to know people he’ll be interacting with in the coming weeks and months. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

On the job now as city manager for the City of Sequim, Matt Huish said he is interested in getting to know people he’ll be interacting with in the coming weeks and months. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

New Sequim city manager to attend first council meeting

Huish: Making connections within community a priority

SEQUIM — New Sequim City Manager Matt Huish said he has found locals share a universal message: everyone who lives in Sequim has chosen to do so.

“They’re super gracious,” he said last Monday, on his first day of work at the Sequim Civic Center.

Huish replaces interim City Manager Charisse Deschenes, who was filling the role after a majority of council members called for the resignation of Charlie Bush, the former city manager.

“We love it here,” Huish added, referring to his wife, Sandra, an emergency room trauma nurse.

Huish will participate in his first Sequim City Council meeting tonight.

Huish had arrived in Sequim Oct. 31, traveling from Utah, where his wife is trying to sell their home. He was staying in an acquaintance’s guest bedroom until the couple finds a home to rent or buy.

Huish started work a day before last Tuesday’s general election, which resulted in three of the four who voted for him to be hired — and who had voted to ask Bush to resign — losing their seats on the Sequim City Council.

Huish’s contract provides him with an $180,000 annual salary, $17,000 in relocation expenses and retirement and health benefits.

If Huish’s employment were terminated for cause (i.e. convicted of a felony or misdemeanor), the city would be obligated to pay only for accrued compensation and benefits. If his tenure were terminated for any reason other than cause, Huish would receive a full year’s salary and health benefits.

On his first day, Huish said his top priority was to meet city residents, tribal and church leaders and business owners.

“I hope that’s (my schedule) for the next couple of months,” he said.

Since January 2018, Huish had served as chief city administrative officer for Sandy, Utah, where he oversaw 600 full-time benefited staff, 300 seasonal part-time employees and an approximate $115 million annual budget, according to his application resume.

During a finalists’ meet-and-greet with Sequim residents, Huish said he places emphasis on team building and collaboration, and on being neutral, a good listener and transparent.

As a preschooler, Huish had moved to Seattle. He grew up in Tacoma, graduated from Stadium High School and completed a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, athletic training, from the University of Puget Sound.

He later transitioned to health care administration before city administration, including roles as administrative director for the University of Utah’s School of Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department for about 10 years and as manager of neuroscience clinics at the University of Utah hospitals and clinics for three-plus years.

He was hired in September after a three-month consultants’ search. Deschenes returned to her previous role as assistant city manager last Monday.

Huish said he’s spoken to Bush and his predecessor, retired city manager Steve Burkett, about the position.

Cost of resignation

Through a public information request filed by the Sequim Gazette, Sequim city staff report the call for Charlie Bush’s resignation cost the city about $207,000.

That breaks down to $125,000 in salary for the year, $10,219 in unemployment claims, $10,441 for state health care under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), $28,944 for Deschenes’ increase in salary and benefits as interim city manager, $4,079.51 for city manager finalists’ food, lodging and meals, and $28,500 to contract with search firm Colin Baenziger & Associates.

City Clerk Sara McMillon wrote via email that the city does not track staff time regarding the resignation process.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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