News

New city manager anxious to get started

by BRIAN GAWLEY
Sequim Gazette

Sequim has plenty of challenges and opportunities but also has a reputation for being able to deal with them, said new city manager Steven Burkett following his unanimous selection Oct. 2.

“It’s a long process. I look forward to getting started. I’m particularly excited to be here for the 100th anniversary of Sequim’s incorporation in 2013,” he said.

Burkett, 64, is scheduled to start work Oct. 19 after giving notice to his current employer, Management Partners Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

He will be the city’s first permanent city manager since Bill Elliott was fired in May 2008.
Burkett’s annual salary will be $120,000 a year plus full benefits.

If he is fired within the first year, he will receive 12 months severance pay and six months severance pay thereafter.

Burkett also will receive a $350 monthly car allowance and $250 a month for utilities but won’t be required to submit monthly utility bills.

He is required to live in the city so Burkett will receive a housing allowance of up to $900 for up to nine months until his Edmonds home sells.

Mayor Laura Dubois said both Acting City Manager and City Attorney Craig Ritchie and Waldron & Company checked into Burkett’s background “in great detail.”

The city’s first choice for city manager, Vernon Stoner of Olympia, had his employment offer withdrawn after sexual harassment allegations arose against him.

Waldron’s investigation included talking to employees, not just supervisors, and conducting a survey on which Burkett scored very high, Dubois said.

“He’s good with employees which is very comforting because ours have been through a lot.”

Councilor Ken Hays said he lobbied hard for Burkett during the last city manager selection process because he represents the best option for the city.

Councilor Bill Huizinga said they specifically asked candidates how long they intended to stay in the job and Burkett said five to seven years.

Councilors also were impressed with Burkett’s financial skills.

Councilor Walt Schubert said in addition to those skills, Burkett also supports his staff.

Councilor Erik Erichsen said he felt from the outset Burkett was the best qualified, especially because of his experience and education in finance, fiscal responsibility and work ethic.

He also did everything his council told him to do unless it was unwise fiscally, Erichsen said.
“He’ll help the city stay solvent and that’s very important.”

Ritchie said one of Burkett’s concerns was that he be allowed to participate in a lot of civic activities.

“It’s clear the public won’t be curious about what Mr. Burkett is doing, he will tell them.”

The new city manager also plans to take the usual “open door policy” a step further with college-style “office hours,” a set time when residents can talk to him.

He also wanted to have a direct city phone line in his home but traded that for a city-issued cell phone.

Burkett, who grew up in Pasco, said he had visited Port Townsend and Sequim in the late 1990s looking for an opportunity to move back from Texas.

Then he took the Shoreline city manager job in May 2001. He left that job in December 2005 after four new members were elected to the city council.

In March 2006, Burkett joined Management Partners, a national consulting firm to local governments.

He looks forward to getting back to city government where you work with people more than as a consultant, Burkett said.

All cities are going through the kind of budget challenges that Sequim faces and they will be there for years to come, he said.

Burkett graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1967 and a master’s degree in public administration in 1969.

Burkett’s parents live in Lynnwood. He and his wife Bobbie have two daughters, both live with their own families in Mukilteo, Wash. and Texas. They have four grandchildren.
 
Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.
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