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Bainbridge hires Seattle's Brenda Bauer as new city manager

It’s taken several months for the City Council to go through the process of hiring a new interim city manager, but the council acted quickly once it identified the primary target.

The council zeroed in on Brenda Bauer late last week as its top choice, negotiated contract terms with the veteran City of Seattle administrator over the weekend and announced her hiring Wednesday night during a public meeting. She starts Tuesday after working her last shift for Seattle on Friday.

“Yes, I’m ready to hit the ground running,” she said Thursday morning. “I have a lot of friends on Bainbridge, and I’ve researched the position, the staff and what’s happened there since the change of government. I’ve interviewed with the council and I’ve met with Lee (Walton) several times. I’ve done my homework. I’m ready.”

Bauer, who had been the Seattle’s director of the Fleets and Facilities Department since 2004, began anticipating her next career move when Mayor Mike McGinn was elected last year to replace Greg Nickels. She has spent the last few months preparing for the merger of her department with the city’s Department of Executive Administration, as McGinn had directed.

What the council likes about Bauer, according to Kirsten Hytopoulos and others, “is that she’s the consummate professional” when it comes to public administration.

“It became obvious during our two interviews with Brenda that this was a truly excellent candidate and the right person for our city at this time,” said Barry Peters, who was also on the city’s negotiating committee.

Bauer said one of the attractions was the fact the city is in a period of change.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to assist the City Council as they refine their approach under the new form of government, and to help the organization succeed as it moves forward into its second budgetary biennium,” she said.

Bauer certainly has earned her first job as a city manager.

Her initial job with the City of Seattle in 1979 was not managerial in nature, but she kept climbing the ladder and eventually earned her law degree from Seattle University in 1991. She worked for the city during the day and attended law classes at night. Her first city job after earning her degree was as a policy advisor in the Department of Administrative Services.

Before becoming the Fleets and Facilities Department head, she served as director of the Purchasing and Contracting Department and as the Seattle Center’s facilities and events manager.

While Bauer will begin on an interim basis, the city has placed provisions in her contract that will allow her to become “permanent” as early as July 1, 2011, following a performance review. She will receive an annual salary of $150,000. If Bauer is discharged without cause or notified that the council intends to search for a replacement, severance benefits would amount to four months pay during the “interim” period and six months pay if it occurred during regular status.

Her hiring means that interim City Manager Lee Walton finally gets to retire again and take the trip to Russia he has been anticipating. Walton was supposed to hold the position only a few months when he was hired last November following the resignation of Mark Dombroski. But the council, with three new members coming aboard in January, was forced to delay the search process as it adapted to the new form of government.

All councilors have been quick to praise Walton and Deputy Manager Stan McNutt, who left the city last month, for leading the way during the changeover.

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