Bainbridge council members find potential interim city manager in Arizona

The Bainbridge Island City Council is considering hiring an interim city manager with a history of short-term positions in Western Washington cities.

Michael Caldwell from Tucson, Ariz. has gotten the nod from the council's ad hoc committee that's in charge of finding a new city manager.

The council voted 4-1 Wednesday to bring in Caldwell to the next city council meeting on April 11 to interview for the interim position.

The committee — consisting of Councilwoman Anne Blair, Councilman Steve Bonkowski and Councilman David Ward — considered various qualities and experience they wanted to see in an interim city manager. The list included experience in labor negotiation, finance, economic development and community relations.

"Michael Caldwell met those requirements with his broad experience as an interim city manager in a variety of strong city manager/council cities," Bonkowski said Thursday morning.

"(He) would provide the existing management team and staff with experienced guidance and problem solving expertise minimizing any risk to the city either financially or in service delivery," Bonkowski said.

At Wednesday's meeting Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos said that she was expecting the committee to bring their recommendation to the council at the next meeting and that the two absent council members, Councilman Bob Scales and Councilwoman Anne Blair, should be present for the discussion.

"It doesn't seem consistent with the idea that we were going to come back with a recommendation next week," Hytopoulos said. "I don't see the urgency to do something like this."

Ward said the recommendation fit with the earlier charge given to the group by the council, however.

"I do feel a sense of urgency in moving forward and getting this decision made," Ward said. "The proposed schedule here is entirely consistent with what was asked for."

Previously Scales and Hytopoulos enthusiastically proposed that current acting city manager Morgan Smith take on the role of interim city manager.

Hytopoulos noted that having Smith step into the role would cost the city far less than hiring another interim manager.

Scales and Hytopoulos pitched Smith as their top choice. This week, the ad hoc committee disagreed.

Blair was unable to attend Wednesday's council meeting, but did send a letter speaking for the ad hoc committee, which Bonkowski read.

The letter said that the committee did consider Smith and found many admirable qualities that she brought to the position.

They ultimately felt that she "lacked leadership experience" in managing the full day-to-day operations of the city.

Blair's letter said the committee decided that an experienced interim city manger would be the best option for the city.

Bonkowski added that the committee was only making a recommendation and no decision had been made.

"We know what (Morgan Smith) can do and how she has dealt with us and the city," Bonkowski said.

"What we don't know is how an interim manager would deal with the city. Unless we can see that person, I don't think you can make a good judgment," he said.

Bonkowski said the committee is not committing to hiring anyone just yet. They want to conduct an interview first, and then let the council decide the best course of action.

Caldwell's resume boasts five interim city manager positions as well as other transitional jobs for municipalities and other organizations, all in the state of Washington.

Over the past 10 years he was the interim city manager for the cities of Edgewood, Medina, Mill Creek and Fife.

Caldwell was brought to the committee's attention by Greg Prothman of the Issaquah-based executive search firm.

Before settling on Caldwell, the committee also considered Stan McNutt, who had previously worked for the city as deputy interim city manager.

McNutt told the committee he wanted to work where he was a "change agent," which led some council members to conclude he would not be a "good fit."

The ad hoc committee also reported on the progress of selecting an executive search firm.

The council had previously decided to invite five firms to come to the city to give a presentation and interview for the job.

Four of the five accepted the invitation — Affion Public, the Mercer Group, Prothman and Strategic Government Resources.

The four search firms will give presentations to the council at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10. The meeting will be open to the public.

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