Bob Earl resigns as acting Bainbridge Public Works director | UPDATED

Bob Earl - Review Archive Photo
Bob Earl
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Bob Earl, the interim director of the city's Public Works Department, has resigned.

Earl, who worked as the senior city engineer for three and a half years, is leaving to become the regional Vice President for the engineering consulting firm Harris and Associates.

The resignation was confirmed Monday by City Manager Mark Dombroski. Earl will leave the city on July 25.

"Of course we're disappointed that he submitted his resignation this morning," Dombroski said. "He's been a strong senior engineer and he's done a great job with water resources and he's well respected among the city staff."

On Tuesday, Earl said it was a privilege to work for the city and with the public works staff.

"I'm really going to miss the people," he said. "We got some terrific folks in engineering and operations and maintenance who continue to do more with less and I think they're under appreciated."

Earl became the interim director of the department after Randy Witt resigned in January. Following Witt's departure, the city's financial position delayed the hiring of a new director. However, that will now become a priority, Dombroski said.

"Obviously this is a position we will fill right away... to recruit a well qualified director now," he said.

Lance Newkirk, the deputy director for the department's Operations and Maintenance division, will take over as the interim director, a position he co-managed with Earl since Witt's departure.

Earl is the third major department head to resign this year, following the departure of Witt and Police Chief Matt Haney.

Council member Kjell Stoknes said Earl was leaving for a job that provided more opportunity, and less politics.

"He found a job that allowed him to grow in his field that was enticing enough to pull him away," Stoknes said. "I think he also felt what was engineering and technological information wasn't subject to politicization and debate."

Stoknes said reducing staff turnover would involve a concerted effort to allow city employees to conduct their work without council micro-management.

"The key is if we can offer an adequately safe place to work, allowing staff to perform their jobs without political interference," he said.

Earl also felt that his job had too much political involvement, though he said his main reason for leaving was the advancement opportunities Harris and Associates offered.

"I won't miss the political spin too much," Earl said. "There are some people that want to make professional activities some kind of a personal issue. That runs counter to good sense and reality."

Council member Debbie Vancil said Earl's resignation was the continuation of a string of departures of senior officials from the city, a trend which began almost two years ago.

"There seems to be a pattern here," she said. "This has been going on for quite some time. The city clearly has a management crisis, and I'm looking forward to us pulling out of it."

Vancil lauded Earl's efforts at the city, citing non-motorized improvements in the North Madison Avenue area as an example of his abilities to organize and see through key projects.

"Bob hasn't had an opportunity to show what he can do really well like he did in that project," she said. "He worked hard with the neighborhood, the council and the non-motorized committee. So I'm disappointed he won't be here."

Earl cited the wastewater treatment plant as one of the capital projects he has been most proud of in recent years. He also said that the project would likely finish under budget.

"It appears that we're going to finish without getting into our contingencies, so it's looking much more like $13.8 million project for sure," he said. "I think I am willing to say that now that I'm on the way out the door."

Earl lauded his coworkers for keeping the plant's construction and budget in line, and said he would miss some aspects of his job on Bainbridge.

"It's been trying at times and really rewarding," Earl said. "For me what this boils down to is not getting our of Bainbridge Island, but taking advantage of a really excellent opportunity."

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