SEQUIM — Sequim’s interim city manager, Charisse Deschenes, will continue in the role until a permanent city manager is hired.
Sequim City Council members unanimously agreed Monday to extend her contract after a 30-minute executive session.
The agreement extends her initial six-month contract from February and gives her a higher base salary of $131,500 per year.
Council members have hired consultant Colin Baenziger & Associates to find candidates for Sequim’s top leadership position; it’s unknown if Deschenes applied.
Council member Keith Larkin said at Monday’s meeting that Baenziger had a final total of 40 candidates, with three withdrawing. He said the 43 candidates represented 21 states, and that Washington state had 14 candidates apply.
The consulting firm helped bring former city manager Charlie Bush to Sequim in 2015 when he was hired by the city council.
In January, Bush was asked to resign in a 4-2 vote over “philosophical differences,” as stated in a city press release.
Baenziger’s team is reviewing 10 of the strongest candidates before sending six to eight of those to the council for consideration on Aug. 12, Larkin said.
On Aug. 26, council members will meet to prioritize their top candidates, with the four finalists invited to interview in Sequim on Sept. 9-10.
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said he’s unable to make the Aug. 26 meeting, but he plans to talk with Baenziger to see how finalists will be determined and how he can best provide his input.
“I know we agreed on a majority decision (for finalists), but I still believe we’re all going to be very close for the final candidates,” Larkin said.
Many council members agreed the selection process would likely be numerically chosen.
Larkin said four of five panelists for a council-approved community interview group of the city manager finalists have been set so far.
The panel includes representatives from the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Sequim School District, North Olympic Peninsula Builders Association and the Clallam County Economic Development Council.
Last year, Deschenes was set to become interim city manager following Bush’s resignation for personal reasons in February 2020. Bush said he’d planned to hike the Appalachian Trail but instead opted to help Sequim through the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilors unanimously reinstated him about a month later.
Some council members — Ferrell and Brandon Janisse — have voiced their support to consider Deschenes as Sequim’s next city manager.
Mayor William Armacost has voiced his general support for Deschenes a few times at meetings.
“I’m extremely pleased with Charisse, and it may produce she is the best candidate for that position,” he said at a March 8 council meeting.
“We have constituents we have to answer to, and to see what the field of opportunity is out there.”
On March 22, Larkin said if “Deschenes is the truly best candidate, then it’ll come out in the process.”
He said using an outside firm is best because it’s neutral.
Deschenes started with the city in 2014 as senior planner and served as assistant to the city manager before being promoted to assistant city manager.
She has a bachelor’s degree in park and resource management from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Benedictine College.
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].