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Bainbridge's city manager search may expand

The City Council entered Wednesday’s meeting prepared to take the next step in the search for a permanent city manager, but eventually pushed off the discussion, and potentially the start of the search.

The council was scheduled to select interview candidates from four search firms, which would locate job candidates for the city. But several councilors wanted to put out a request for proposals, which would open up a more time-consuming process involving more recruiters.

Should the council open up the process, it may have to look for a second interim manager to replace Lee Walton, who upon his hiring in November stated that he only wanted to be with the city for approximately six months.

Continuing with Walton at the helm while conducting the search, several councilors said, puts the pressure on council to quickly find a replacement. A second interim, who wants to be around for a year or so could make the search a lot easier.

“It would help us to make a decision without the pressure to relieve Lee of his duty immediately,” said Councilor Kirsten Hytopoulos.

After a lengthy discussion, the council decided to move the item to its next study session so it can be discussed with Walton, who wasn’t present at Wednesday night’s meeting. Depending on what comes from that discussion, council may hold a separate workshop to discuss the issue.

Mayor Bob Scales said the council has yet to talk about a specific date by which Walton would like to leave, and learning Walton’s timeline is crucial to the council’s search. Scales said he would rather take the time to do a thorough search than scramble to find an available candidate to permanently replace Walton, who didn’t return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

“I don’t want to rush the process, and I also don’t want to look for another interim,” Scales said. “I would rather open the process than rush it to accommodate Lee’s timeline.”

Several councilors listed former University Place City Manager Bob Jean as a potential secondary interim manager. Jean recently retired from University Place, a city of 32,000 that features an $87 million budget and 64 employees.

Jean served as University Place’s city manager since it was incorporated in 1995.

Jean came to the island last year to speak on behalf of the change of government campaign.

Councilor Barry Peters felt it was necessary to begin the search now. He said the four firms that submitted applications thus far were more than qualified to find a suitable candidate.

“By default, taking someone who is retiring from another city is OK, but nowhere near as good as searching for the best candidate at this time,” he said.

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