Sequim city councilors made the next step in finding a new city manager Friday by agreeing to a contract with search firm Colin Baenziger & Associates out of Daytona Beach Shores, Fla.
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.
With five councilors present in the special virtual meeting on April 30, they voted 4-1 in favor of the $28,500 contract and councilor Keith Larkin being the point of contact between the city and the agency. Rachel Anderson opposed the motion.
Councilor Brandon Janisse and Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell were not at Friday’s virtual meeting.
The firm’s search follows the council’s decision to call for Bush’s resignation in January over “philosophical differences,” according to a press release quoting Mayor William Armacost.
Assistant city manager Charisse Deschenes accepted the interim city manager role in February, signing a six-month contract through August.
According to the firm’s proposal, city manager finalists could be chosen near the end of Deschenes’s contract.
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 on May 28, according to the firm’s proposal.
Baenziger said once recruitment closes they’ll choose 10-15 people and question them and perform extensive background checks before narrowing the choices again.
In August, city councilors will select candidates to interview, and in mid-August hold interviews and a reception, according to the firm’s proposal.
Candidates will be interviewed individually by each city councilor, as a group, and meet with community members at a reception.
A majority of councilors agreed on March 22 in a 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 councilors and community members said they felt there was no need to rush a city manager search since Deschenes was recently hired as interim city manager, while some councilors felt the need to search now before her contract expires in August.
Deschenes was unavailable for comment about 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 councilors could participate. Her motion, however, 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 councilor Sarah Kincaid, served on 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 councilors 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 said 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 after city councilors withdrew an offer to Vernon Stoner after sexual harassment allegations arose against him.