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Schulze gets positive review from council in first year as Bainbridge city manager

Bainbridge Island City Manager Doug Schulze - Bainbridge Island Review photo
Bainbridge Island City Manager Doug Schulze
— image credit: Bainbridge Island Review photo

He's been a good listener, connected with the community and very good at staying out of political drama.

That's the initial assessment on Bainbridge Island City Manager Doug Schulze by his boss: the seven-member city council.

Schulze marked his one-year anniversary with the city last week, and this week, the council will sign off on his first annual performance evaluation.

The city manager's successes — and areas where the council sees room for improvement — are set out in a 13-page performance review that the council is expected to accept at its meeting on Nov. 13.

The review process was led by Strategic Government Resources, the Texas-based consulting firm that also brought Schulze to Bainbridge as its new city manager a year ago. The review began earlier this year, and Schulze's performance evaluation is largely a recapping of what was said during a special, closed-door council retreat held on Sunday, Aug. 11 where the council met for nearly five hours in an executive session.

Overall, Schulze got high marks for his communication skills inside and outside of city hall.

Some on the council, however, also expressed concerns about his speed when it comes to making decisions, and his ability to motivate city employees, according to a copy of Schulze's performance review.

The performance review covered leadership and management areas, and also included goals for the coming year.

On the whole, the council considers Schulze to be "honest, fair, consistently open and straightforward."

The review also noted that Schulze "had built some needed bridges between the staff and the council."

Council members were also complimentary about the restructuring of the public works department and the impact of new leadership in the police department.

Schulze was praised for his hiring decisions, and council members noted he "has been making exceptionally good hires."

The city council also said Schulze "does a great job of staying out of political dynamics and not taking sides."

Some council members, however, also feel that Schulze's "analytical tendency to depend heavily on data" may slow down the decision-making process.

And while council members praised Schulze as a good listener, some said he holds back too much.

Council members noted that Schulze is cautious about sharing his own ideas and opinions.

Combined with his style of taking a lot of time to think about data before making a decision, it's left some on the council feeling left behind when an actual decision is made, according to the performance review.

"This has contributed to a dynamic where individual council members will sometimes meet with him and express their opinion, and leave the meeting having interpreted his silence as agreement. Then when he later takes a different action, they are surprised at the outcome," the report states.

Council members also said he could engage more on some issues to help bring the council to a decision. The council has set a goal for Schulze to become more assertive on introducing solutions and finding consensus.

Schulze received a mixed report on organizing and planning.

Some on the council said some projects were taking too long to get done, while others noted that the council has added a lot to the work plan for the city manager without giving him resources to get those tasks accomplished.

The view was also split on Schulze's decision-making.

Some council members said he "is very conservative and does not make decisions without a lot of data, which takes a lot of time."

"Some of the council is satisfied with this approach, and some are not," the review said.

The council has set a goal for Schulze in the coming year to give the council a risk assessment when he gives options, "so that the council can decide how aggressive they want to be and how much risk they are willing to undertake on any given item."

Some on the council were also concerned that Schulze was not motivating city employees to become better workers.

Though Schulze was lauded for his communication skills, some members of the council also said they wanted communication improved. They want to know about key staff departures "so that there are no surprises of council out in the community," and Schulze must also make sure the mayor and council get "rapid response talking points" when major issues become news.

"These talking points should provide information on what the city is doing about the issue so that council is equipped to answer questions from the citizens in a prompt and knowledgeable manner," the review said.

The council also wants Schulze to develop a long-term strategic focus, and assess how Bainbridge Island compares to other cities in its use of resources.

Schulze is now in his second year of a three-year contract that pays him $150,000 salary annually.

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