Search continues for county administrator

County’s top choice pulls out of negotiations

Ethan Raup.

Ethan Raup.

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County officials will discuss how and when to resume their search for a new county administrator now that their choice, Ethan Raup, has declined to take on the role.

Raup, 51, was still in verbal negotiations and had not received an official offer letter with a salary when he declined to move forward late Tuesday afternoon. Raup said he has decided to stay with KEXP public radio in Seattle.

When Raup had initially applied and entered the interview process for the county administrator position, he felt it was the right time to leave his position as the chief operations officer and chief of staff with KEXP.

But after reflection and speaking with colleagues and others in the KEXP community, he realized it’s not the time to leave, he said in a phone interview Thursday.

“My time at KEXP really isn’t over just yet,” Raup said. “It was a very difficult decision.”

County commissioners will not follow up with either of the two other finalists, said commission Chair Kate Dean.

Instead, the county will restart recruitment talks with its search firm Prothman to discuss its next steps.

“We had a diverse hiring committee and there was no consensus to move forward with any other candidate except for Ethan,” Dean said.

“The support was so overwhelming in support of Ethan, and that wasn’t there for the other candidates.”

The first time the three commissioners will talk together about Raup declining the position will be Monday.

At that meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m., commissioners will conduct a noon quarterly meeting with the other county elected officials and department directors, as well as discuss the administrator search process, Dean said.

Dean said one aspect of the upcoming discussions is potentially postponing the new search until after the holidays, beginning again in January.

The holiday season is a difficult time to recruit and the county has other decisions to make over the next few months. Those include the second biennial budget cycle and work to move the Port Hadlock sewer project forward, she said.

“I don’t feel a big rush,” Dean said. “I know others in the county may feel differently.

“We have a lot on our plate until the end of the year and so — in some ways — waiting allows us to just hold steady, and then start up in January. We’ll see if my colleagues agree with that.”

Raup said he was impressed with his experiences during the interview process with the commissioners, the county staff and the stakeholders involved with the interview process.

“It’s clearly a very special place and also an exciting time with really effective leaders, both in the public sector and in the nonprofit and private sector in Port Townsend and across Jefferson County,” he said.

“It was a very appealing and very exciting opportunity and very, very difficult decision.”

Mark McCauley, county central services director, has served as interim county administrator since April, when former County Administrator Philip Morley abruptly resigned after more than 12 years in the post.

Morley, 67, said then that the resignation was “mutually agreed upon” with county commissioners Dean described as “one of the youngest boards of commissioners in the state.”

Dean said she’s disappointed that Raup declined the offer, returning the county almost to the start of the search process again.

“Ethan’s been a pleasure to negotiate with,” Dean said. “We got our hopes up, and he handled it as well as he could, given the challenging situation.

“It’s really discouraging, in part because we know the labor market is so tight and we know that the cost of living here makes it very difficult to relocate.”

Dean hopes the county eventually will be able to find a new candidate who will be the “right fit.”

“We learned through this interview process how important the right fit is,” Dean said. “I would like to find someone who is willing to be innovative and think differently about the future. Where we can afford to think about things differently, I’d really like to find someone who is thinking about innovation and the future of counties differently.”

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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