Port Angeles council takes next step in hiring city manager

Nathan West

Nathan West

PORT ANGELES — It’s official: Nathan West will be the next Port Angeles city manager.

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to appoint a subcommittee that will develop a contract for West to work as the city’s chief executive.

West, 46, has served as the city’s community and economic development director since 2008. He began working for the city as principal planner in 2005.

West has been regarded as a likely successor to current City Manager Dan McKeen, who announced in May that he would retire Sept. 5.

Before the unanimous vote, West told the council that he was “very grateful” for the opportunity.

“It certainly is an honor and a privilege to be working with such a vibrant City Council and participating in this community’s future and building a better future for the community,” West said.

“I’m also extremely excited to be able to work with such a capable city staff. What we have as a team among staff is exceptional, and I’m very excited to be moving forward with all of you collectively.”

The council appointed Mayor Sissi Bruch and Council member Cherie Kidd to work with Human Resources Director Abbi Fountain on West’s employment contract.

The full council is expected to consider the contract Aug. 7.

McKeen’s salary is $149,000 per year, which is $8,000 less than his predecessor, Kent Myers, who resigned in 2012 after four years.

The Port Angeles City Manager oversees the administration of municipal functions. He or she prepares a draft budget, supervises department heads and reports to the seven-member legislative body.

“This [selection] is the most important decision that we make as a council,” Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said.

“We’re fortunate to be making a fantastic decision.”

After McKeen announced his plan to retire, the City Council hired a recruiting firm to evaluate West for the city manager’s role.

The city paid $6,500 to Prothman, a consulting firm headed by a former Des Moines City Manager Greg Prothman, to examine West’s management and leadership style, communication style, budgeting, involvement in the community, strategic visioning, council interaction skills, personnel skills, knowledge of city departments and other traits.

It would have cost the city an estimated $25,000 to conduct an external search, Fountain has said.

“In the past, we’ve had national searches that have been very costly and sometimes quite disappointing,” said Kidd, the longest-serving council member.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a community member and excellent employee with an outstanding record that Mr. West has. He’s well known and well respected in our community.”

Prothman determined in a written evaluation that West would make an “outstanding” city manager, Kidd said.

“We’re very fortunate that we don’t have to go outside,” Kidd said of external recruitment.

“We want someone whose qualities is a leadership in the community, who has a great work ethic, who understands and responds and communicates well with council [and] communicates well with the community. Nathan has those positive attributes.”

McKeen also was an internal hire. He had served as Port Angeles fire chief before he became city manager six years ago.

“Mr. McKeen came into the office with a big smile but a crooked arm,” Kidd said.

“I twisted his arm a little bit.”

Kidd and other council members thanked McKeen for his service and for developing a succession plan for city officials.

West, for example, has served as acting city manager in McKeen’s absence since 2012.

“I’m really, really optimistic for this next transition,” Council member Mike French said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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