PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend will have a new city manager in place this fall.
City Council members approved the contract for John Mauro on Monday night, ending a months-long search that began last October.
Mauro, currently a chief sustainability officer in New Zealand, will start Nov. 1. He will earn a base salary of $156,000, near the top of the range the city adopted last year for the position.
His compensation package also includes a $20,000 relocation allowance, an amount expected to be prorated back to the city over a two-year period if either party terminates the contract in the first 24 months.
“I’m literally moving back across the world largely due to the commitment, capability and care shown by the community and council members in this selection process,” Mauro said via email Tuesday. “It’s undoubtedly an irresistible draw – and it will be an invaluable asset as we work together on some of PT’s big challenges.
“In my discussions so far, it’s clear that issues of affordability, fairness and navigating growth and change seem to stand out. They’re big challenges and cut across the major strategic priorities identified in the strategic plan, including affordable housing, climate change, living wage jobs and economic development, and infrastructure, among others.”
The council voted 6-1 to approve the contract, which does not have a set term to expire, with council member Bob Gray dissenting.
Mauro emerged as the city’s preferred candidate out of four finalists who were interviewed last month. He will replace David Timmons, who retired at the end of June following 20 years of service as Port Townsend’s first city manager.
Gray’s complaint wasn’t about Mauro, who was unanimously the city’s top pick. Rather, Gray took issue with the salary compared with Timmons as well as the negotiation process.
Timmons retired at the top step for the position at $158,211, and his increases put him at an additional 26.5 percent in lieu of retirement benefits, interim City Manager Nora Mitchell said.
That put Timmons’ total annual compensation package closer to $204,000, Mitchell said.
Mauro rejected an initial offer of $150,000, Mayor Deborah Stinson said, and Gray expressed frustration that the full council wasn’t asked about a potential counter offer.
“It is a pretty high number as far as I’m concerned, and I suggested something lower in the executive session,” Gray said.
Council member David Faber argued that council had previously approved a resolution that gave negotiating powers to Stinson and Mitchell.
During executive sessions earlier this month, the full council had approved a range of parameters for Stinson to take to the table. The approved salary range was between $125,000 and $163,000, Mitchell said.
Additional contract provisions include about 13 percent of his annual wages paid toward the state Public Employees’ Retirement System, standard among other city employees, Mitchell said.
Mauro also will have a vehicle allowance of $5,400 per year, paid monthly. Mileage will only be reimbursed if the distance is greater than 100 miles from city limits.
The city also plans to pay premiums for a $50,000 life insurance policy, and Mitchell said Mauro would have the option of purchasing additional insurance at his own expense.
Mauro will receive a standard benefit plan offered to other non-union city employees, including long-term disability. He will have a performance review after his first six months and then annually prior to Oct. 31.
He will have 120 banked hours of both vacation and sick leave on his first day on the job.
“We decided to move forward with making an offer to Mr. Mauro, and we approved that in that meeting on June 19,” Faber said in response to Gray’s line of questioning. “The [salary] range would be negotiated. The 120 sick leave hours was the one thing this council has not yet approved.
“The offer letter was an agreement to negotiate in good faith on a final contract that falls within the offer we made,” Faber continued. “That was signed by John to clear the way for negotiation just between him and the city. We expected to get further comments back from him, and he just signed the contract.”
Gray said he was confused on the timetable based on Mauro’s acceptance of the offer letter on July 5. He said he asked for terms on July 9, but they were not available.
Stinson said that’s because the terms were not in the offer letter and had yet to be negotiated at that time.
“[Mauro] knows it’s pending [council] approval,” Stinson said.
The city previously hired HR Answers as a consultant to survey salary ranges for city managers in Washington cities whose populations were between 7,500 and 15,000, Mitchell said.
“To be frank with you, those numbers were all over the board, from $70,000 to $235,000 for base salary,” she said. “Our salary was probably a little conservative in terms of the range we adopted.”
Gray felt like authorizing the mayor — one of seven council members — to negotiate as opposed to the interim city manager was a different process than they’ve typically used.
“We as a council authorized a negotiator,” council member Amy Howard responded. “We voted to authorize.”
Mauro has ties to the Northwest as a former policy analyst for the city of Seattle. Originally from Maine, he also worked as a former policy, planning and government affairs director for Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle.
Mauro has a bachelor of arts degree in environmental studies and conservation biology from Middlebury College in Vermont.
He also was the lone finalist for the town manager position in Windham, Maine, about 30 miles south of his hometown of Auburn, Maine.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.