PORT TOWNSEND — It’s been a long trip from Auckland, New Zealand.
John Mauro, who spent the past five years as the sustainability officer for the Auckland Council, begins his tenure today as Port Townsend’s city manager.
Mauro, 44, will be sworn in at the City Council meeting Monday as the city’s second top executive. He replaces David Timmons, who retired in June after 20 years on the job.
“It’s been a whirlwind these past 48 hours,” said Mauro, who sat in a conference room at City Hall on Thursday in a sport coat with an open collar. “I’ve run the trails, got my library card, closed on a house and got my [Food] Co-Op card.”
Mauro and his family arrived in the Northwest on Oct. 23 with a stopover in Hawaii. He accepted the job in July and has been working to make the transition.
“Almost every single thing that’s happened has made me and my wife feel significantly welcome,” he said.
Mauro had a pre-first day meeting with city leadership Thursday but hadn’t seen his office by noon.
Some of his priorities as he takes office include planning and sustainability as well as affordable housing.
“Obviously a community isn’t a growing community if it’s exclusionary,” Mauro said. “To know there is a homelessness problem in Jefferson County and Port Townsend is heartbreaking.
“The same is true with the local economy. We’ve got great assets in the hospital and the mill, but we have to keep diversifying. How do we keep pressing go on this?”
Mauro said he loves the natural environment, the smell of the saltwater and the people in the community.
“I’ve had so much fun talking with people, and I think that’s going to be a big part of this job,” he said.
The city’s search to replace a retiring Timmons started last November.
Several community meetings were held during the winter to develop a profile of the type of person the city council should consider. The city hired a search firm this spring, and applicants were narrowed to four semifinalists in June.
All four were moved to finalist status and invited to a public forum at the Port Townsend Community Center in June.
Mauro was approved with a 6-1 council vote later that month, and council member Bob Gray’s dissension had to do with Mauro’s salary in comparison to Timmons.
Mauro will make $156,000, near the top of the range the city adopted for the position last year.
“John Mauro is really the right person at the right time for our city,” Mayor Deborah Stinson said in June as the council made Mauro its preferred candidate. “He’s very smart, very curious and has a lot of great experience.”
Stinson said Mauro doesn’t have city management experience, but interview panels “explored that with him quite a bit.”
In New Zealand, Mauro was responsible for 20 employees and a $211 million budget.
Originally from Maine, Mauro also has roots in the Northwest. He worked as a climate policy analyst for the city of Seattle from 2005-07, and he was the director of policy, planning and government affairs for the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle four years later.
On Thursday, he said local governments are “an enabler of awesomeness.”
“We get to harness the great intellectual capacity here, and there are so many other areas of success,” Mauro said. “There are so many great volunteers, staff members and interagency partners.”
This summer, council members were impressed with Mauro’s initiative to contact several Jefferson County organizations, including nonprofits, to learn what he could prior to the interview process.
Council member Amy Howard said in June that the city needs a visionary.
“We set an incredibly high bar,” Howard said.
“Looking to the future, I think we need to raise that bar even higher, and I think the person to do that for this community is John Mauro,” she said.
Mauro said Thursday he has a lot to learn and a lot of conversations to have.
“My door is open to everyone,” he said. “I hope it’s not just one voice. I hope it’s 9,500 voices.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].