Sequim’s ex-city manager to begin new job

SEQUIM ­– Bill Elliott, the Sequim city manager who received a $152,318.52 severance package after he was fired in May 2008, has been hired to run Estacada, Ore., population 2,980.

“He is exactly what we need right now,” Estacada Mayor Becky Arnold said Thursday. Her city, 25 miles east of Portland, has a new urban-renewal district, a budding main-street revitalization project and hopes for a new “enterprise zone” in its industrial park.

Elliott, who managed Sequim through much of its rapid growth during the earlier part of this decade, was deemed no longer suitable by the four new City Council members who took office in January 2008.

Ken Hays, Susan Lorenzen, Erik Erichsen and Mayor Laura Dubois voted to fire him during a May 5 study session, while longtime council member Paul McHugh cast the lone no vote.

When Elliott starts his new job Aug. 3, he’ll earn an annual salary of $72,000, Estacada city Recorder Denise Carey said.

In Sequim, Elliott made $96,324.80 per year; his settlement included that sum plus $55,993.72 in additional pay.

Source of contention

The severance package has been the source of much consternation among council members over the past year. This spring, when Happy Valley resident Patricia Allen upbraided the newer members about the amount, Lorenzen responded that Elliott, who was 66 when fired, would probably have retired soon and collected ample benefits from the city.

Elliott didn’t return calls for comment Thursday on the retirement issue.

Under his Estacada contract, if the City Council fires him in less than one year, Elliott will receive two months’ salary, or $12,000.

If dismissed after more than a year, he’d get another month’s salary for each year of service, up to a maximum 12 months’ pay.

Elliott succeeds former Estacada City Manager Randy Ealy, who left after nine years to manage Beaverton, Ore., a city of more than 86,000.

Back in Sequim, the City Council has spent 14 months and considerable funds on the hunt for its city manager.

Last November, the council brought three candidates to town but couldn’t negotiate a contract with the one it wanted for the job; in December, Mercer Island Assistant City Manager Linda Herzog succeeded Sequim Police Chief Robert Spinks as interim chief. Her nine-month stay includes a salary of $7,083 per month.

The council then hired Waldron & Co., a Seattle search firm, for $20,000 to recruit a new pool of applicants. Waldron expects to bring finalists to Sequim next month so that the council can have a permanent manager on board by early September when Herzog’s contract expires.

A few weeks ago, the City Council opted to raise the position’s pay range above what Elliott made: from $100,000 to $130,000 depending on qualifications.

Member Bill Huizinga said at the time that he urged the rest of the council to agree to the range “in order to attract the kind of manager we want.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladaily news.com.

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