Sequim city councilors voted to enter into negotiations with Assistant City Manager Charisse Deschenes to replace outgoing City Manager Charlie Bush on an interim basis.
Following an executive session they voted 5-0 on Monday, Feb. 24, to name Deschenes the interim city manger, with Brandon Janisse abstaining and Dennis Smith absent.
Bush, who announced his resignation on Feb. 10 for personal reasons, finishes his four-plus years leading the city on April 17. Deschenes assumes the city manager role the next day.
“Any opportunity to promote from within an organization, there are great things that can happen,” Mayor William Armacost said.
“I personally feel we are extremely blessed to have talented staff that Charlie has been able to organize.”
Deschenes, who began working with the city in 2014 as senior planner, thanked city councilors for the opportunity.
“I am honored that you are considering me for the interim position,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to work with Charlie and you all.”
Deschenes said in an interview that she’ll negotiate a contract with the city prior to the start date.
She was promoted to Assistant to the City Manager in May 2017 and to Assistant City Manager in Sept. 2018.
Outgoing city councilor Jennifer States said, “This is a great opportunity to have the time to overlap between Charlie and Charisse, and having that time together is essential.”
Deschenes has a bachelor’s of science degree in park and resource management from Kansas State University and a master of business administration degree from Benedictine College.
She completed the Senior Executive Institute from the Weldon Cooper School of Public Management and the Northwest Women’s Leadership Academy.
Deschenes is expected to complete the two-year Leadership International City County Management Association in October.
Issues with process
Janisse said he abstained from the vote for Deschenes and opted not to participate in the executive session on Feb. 24 because he said there was a private meeting about the city manager process that he and some councilors didn’t know about.
The executive session agenda stated it was to “evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment or to review the performance of a public employee.”
Armacost said he and Deputy Mayor Ted Miller received an email from administrative services director Sue Hagener seeking input for the process for selecting a new city manager. They opted to hold a meeting on Feb. 13 at the Sequim Civic Center with administrative staff; Armacost invited fellow city councilor Tom Ferrell because of his background in hiring.
Armacost said they discussed the city’s previous hiring processes in which will be selected to screen candidates, and that the city council would interview those candidates before choosing someone.
He said they formed an ad hoc committee of three city councilors at the meeting and opted to narrow the number of firms from seven to three, but that no other decisions were made.
Janisse said he felt they chose Deschenes from that meeting and other councilors were in the proverbial dark about the process.
“There was no rush for what just happened,” he said.
However, Armacost said they didn’t know if she would be interested and if it was even an option.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, Deschenes said she’d consider the interim position.
“The executive session was to unpack what we were to do right here,” Armacost said.
He said there wasn’t a hidden agenda behind the meeting but that it pertained to procedures on past hiring practices.
“The key is we didn’t make any decisions at that meeting,” Miller said. “We can’t make decisions (there).”
Janisse said his abstention wasn’t personal to Deschenes and he’s “not mad about who you picked but the process.”
Ferrell offered that Janisse join the subcommittee but Janisse declined, saying he doesn’t “agree with that direction of the city government.”
City councilors will discuss the city manager contract process at their March 9 meeting.
For more information about the Sequim city council, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.