Sequim chooses city manager search firm

Agency helped bring former leader Bush to area

SEQUIM — Sequim City Council members hired a search firm to help with the selection of the town’s next city manager.

The council, with two members absent, agreed to a $28,500 contract with Colin Baenziger & Associates of Daytona Beach Shores, Fla.

The vote was 4-1 at the virtual special meeting Friday. Council member Rachael Anderson opposed it, and Council member Brandon Janisse and Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell were absent.

Council member Keith Larkin was made the point of contact between the city and the agency.

Baenziger and his team helped bring former city manager Charlie Bush to the city in 2015 for consideration following the retirement of former city manager Steve Burkett. The contract with the firm in 2015 was $23,200.

The firm’s search this time follows the council’s decision to call for Bush’s resignation in January over “philosophical differences,” according to a press release that quoted Mayor William Armacost. Assistant city manager Charisse Deschenes accepted the interim city manager role in February with a six-month contract through August.

According to the firm’s proposal, city manager finalists could be chosen around her contract’s end.

At Friday’s meeting, Baenziger summarized his process for recruitment starting by drafting information about Sequim and the position with city officials before posting the job online and submitting it to trade press and via email lists.

“(It won’t be) just one candidate, but five or six or eight,” he said. “We want you to have a difficult time choosing because they’re all great.”

Discussions will tentatively begin May 12 to work on the recruitment profile before recruitment begins May 28, according to the firm’s proposal.

Baenziger said once recruitment closes, the company will choose 10-15 people, question them and perform extensive background checks before narrowing the choices again.

In August, city council members will tentatively select candidates to interview. In mid-August, they will conduct interviews and a reception, according to the firm’s proposal.

Candidates will be interviewed individually by each city council member and as a group and meet with community members at a reception.

Council members agreed March 22 in a split 4-3 vote to begin the search for a new city manager.

In March, Armacost said he’s pleased with Deschenes’ efforts and that the search doesn’t discourage her appointment as interim city manager.

“It may produce she is the best candidate for that position,” he said.

Some council members and community members felt there wasn’t a need to rush a city manager search since Deschenes was recently hired as interim city manager, while some council members felt the need to search now before her contract expires in August.

Deschenes was unavailable for comment on whether she wants to apply for the permanent position.

Armacost told Baenziger he’s “excited to move forward” because “time is of the essence.”

Larkin said he felt it was “important for council to move on with this process to have adequate time to go through it.”

Anderson sought a motion to postpone the contract decision to May 10 so absent council members could participate. Her motion did not receive a second.

City Clerk Sara McMillon said via email that Ferrell and Janisse were unavailable for the meeting but said it was OK to proceed.

Anderson and Larkin along with Council member Sarah Kincaid sat in a subcommittee to help choose the firm for council to consider.

Armacost said he discussed with McMillon the 1 p.m. Friday time because he wanted to accommodate the lunch hour so council members could participate.

As for ongoing communication with Baenziger, Anderson said she felt more comfortable with city staff being the contacts with him rather than Larkin because of their expertise.

Armacost said he felt adding that to the city’s work load was a “heavy lift” as they negotiate three union contracts and recruit a new police officer along with their regular duties. He felt the decision doesn’t supersede staff’s expertise but rather it’s “an acceptance of the reality of time, and time is of the essence.”

Armacost added that Larkin’s “executive experience is tremendous” and the “willingness of councilor Larkin to take this on I’m grateful for.”

Larkin retired in December 2015 with 36 years in California state service including six years as fire chief for Fresno County Fire Protection District.

The next city manager would follow Bush and Burkett, who was hired in October 2009.

For more information on the City of Sequim, call 360-683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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