PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s city manager is prepared to delay his retirement — originally slated for the end of 2018 — to allow city officials to focus on ongoing projects this year and smooth the transition to his successor.
“I offered, if [the City Council] wanted, I would stay on board until June of ’19 and keep the organization running while they run their recruitment,” Timmons said Tuesday.
“If they want to retain me and I can help through that process, I’m happy to do that.”
During the council’s meeting Monday night, Timmons recommended that council members delay hiring a new manager until next year while the city focuses on ongoing projects this year.
The council is expected to make a decision during a special meeting Jan. 22.
Among the priorities for this year, Timmons said, is a proposed annexation into the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue. The city currently contracts with the fire department for services.
He cautioned the council against aiming to have his successor hired by the end of the year. He said the only way that would be possible without disrupting the city’s plans for this year would be to contract with a recruiter.
“The downside I’ve experienced with executive recruiters is if they aren’t careful, there’s a disengagement,” he said. “The public only gets to see the finalists and they don’t get to engage in the process.”
He told the council that hiring a new city manager should be a public process and that whoever is chosen will need support from both the public and the City Council.
“Having buy-in from both sides is critical to the success of a manager going into this role,” he said.
Instead of starting the process immediately, he recommended the city begin the recruitment process at the beginning of 2019.
If he steps down at the end of the year, as he originally planned, he suggested Nora Mitchel, director of finance and administration, assume the role of acting city manager.
However, “I do not recommend the process begin in 2018,” he wrote in a memo. “It is my belief that that would be disruptive to the current needs of the organization during 2018.”
Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval said she preferred that Timmons stay until June 2019 while the search for a new city manager goes on.
Councilman Robert Gray questioned whether it was a good idea for the new city manager to begin at the start of the 2020 budget process. Another council member countered, saying that if someone is applying to be a city manager, the applicant should have a good understanding of the budgeting process.
Timmons said the new city manager would initially rely on the city’s existing staff.
Once the recruitment process begins, Timmons said he has no doubt there will be plenty of applicants. Since news of his upcoming retirement has spread, Timmons said he’s already had several LinkedIn invitations.
“I know three people personally that are 30-somethings with young families that are sitting like vultures at the back of my chair in my office waiting for me to fall out so they can step in,” Timmons told the council. “I don’t think there will be a problem in finding candidates.”
He said timing is critical when it comes to the the recruitment process.
Timmons believes that if the new city manager is to start during the summer, the job would be more attractive to a “family-oriented candidate.”
Timmons, the city’s first city manager, was hired in 1999 when the city changed from a strong-mayor form of government to a weak-mayor form of government.
This is the first time the city has had to search for a city manager since Timmons was hired. He said he plans to stay in Port Townsend after he retires while he works on a joint venture with a friend.
Timmons said it’s difficult to prepare to leave his post as he sees more work that needs to be done.
“I can’t walk away from a challenge,” he said. “It’s hard because I keep looking and thinking gosh, we can do this or that. I have to remind myself that no, that’s somebody else’s.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].