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UPDATE | Schulze is council’s pick for next city manager

Douglas Schulze speaks with islanders at a reception for the three city manager candidates the night before he was selected.  - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Douglas Schulze speaks with islanders at a reception for the three city manager candidates the night before he was selected.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

With a round of applause, the city council selected Douglas Schulze as their top choice for the city manager of Bainbridge Island.

The thumbs up came after three candidates interviewed for the position with the city council in an executive session Wednesday evening. The council opened their meeting up to the public at 9:30 p.m. and made their decision.

Schulze was the only candidate present in the council chambers for the decision.

“All three were certainly qualified and acceptable city managers, however, from my perspective Doug Schulze is the best candidate,” said Councilman Steve Bonkowski.

“He has experience as a city manager in cities that have similarities,” he said.

Bonkowski added that Schulze gives the impression of a city manager that can build trust in the island community and foster transparency the community values.

“He would make an outstanding city manager,” Bonkowski said.

One by one, each council member echoed Bonkowski’s compliments.

“I am quite interested in Doug Schulze, as well,” said Mayor Debbi Lester. “He was very thorough.”

The council unanimously approved Schulze as their pick for city manager, pending a successful contract negotiation.

Schulze was the first of the three finalists to apply for the post; he submitted his letter of interest on June 26.

The other two finalists were Mark Hoppen, who spent nearly 15 years as the city administrator for Gig Harbor, and Bonnie Therrien from Connecticut. Therrien is currently the interim town manager of North Branford, Conn.

Schulze, who has been the city manager of the city of Normandy Park since 2006, has 24 years of experience in local government management.

Like Bainbridge Island, Normandy Park has experienced its own financial hardships in recent years, so much that the Schulze recently proposed raising the city’s property tax levy.

The city also had to take other budget-reducing measures, such as downsizing staff, outsourcing services to other cities, raising stormwater fees and forgoing street and facility maintenance.

While the moves Normandy Park has taken have translated into considerable savings — approximately $2.1 million dollars — it remains in a financial gray area. Some news reports indicate the city will not have enough money to legally run itself within three years.

Before taking over as the city manager in Normandy Park, Schulze was the city manager of Medina for 10 years, from 1996 to 2006.

Prior to his time in Medina, he was the city administrator for the city of Sandstone, Minn. from 1992 to 1996. He was also assistant city administrator in Savage, Minn. from 1988 to 1992.

Schulze has a master’s degree in urban and regional studies from Minnesota State University, and a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Minnesota State University.

In his application letter, Schulze said he had been watching Bainbridge Island’s city council meetings online in recent months, and touted his ability to create relationships that were “based on mutual trust and respect.”

He also said his work in Medina and Normandy Park would make him well-suited to take over as city manager at Bainbridge Island City Hall, and he touched on two issues important on Bainbridge Island: open government and police services.

Schulze recalled the high expectations of Medina citizens in open and transparent government, and noted that the council had asked him to “create a professional and respected police department.”

“I worked very closely with the police chief and officers to improve the reputation of the department and within five years the police department became a state accredited agency,” Schulze said in his application letter.

But it wasn’t just his presence on paper, or in his interview with the council, that gave Schulze the edge.

Council members also noted his presence at the community meet-and-greet the night before his interview with the council.

All three candidates worked the room, discussing themselves and local issues with islanders who came out to put a name with a face.

“He did a great job interacting with the community,” Bonkowski said.

Lester agreed.

“I was thankful we had the open house and got to watch the interaction,” she said.

Baskets of cookies were put out. Coffee and tea was made (decaf).

Schulze told the crowd of his career centered on public safety, public works and parks. He compared Bainbridge Island to the place where he grew up, and the kind of community he finds attractive.

“I grew up in what I called ‘Mayberry,’ and my dad was a police officer,” Schulze said. “But then I realize that would make my dad Barney Fife.”

Schulze went on to say that in a town like that, everyone gets to know your name.

“Even though Bainbridge Island is much bigger, it still has that feel,” Schulze said.

If everything runs smoothly with contract negotiations between the city and Schulze, the council could make a decision regarding the city manager’s employment agreement at its next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Editor Brian Kelly contributed to this article.

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