The three finalists for the Bainbridge Island city manager job met with the public at an online Zoom meeting Thursday night.
Deputy mayor Kirsten Hytopoulos asked the questions.
Is the city manager of Coronado, an island-like community west of San Diego. It’s a city of 25,000 people. He explained they have been working for years on the same issues BI is now: Development, traffic, alternative transportation, climate, water, etc. Prior to that he was in Lodi, CA, where he worked with power issues and polluted groundwater. At Half Moon Bay, CA, he was involved in controlling growth and land use preservation. One of his three daughters came to love BI, so he’s been checking it out for 4 1/2 years. “I’ve looked at you for awhile and found you to be similar to Coronado. When the opportunity came I jumped at the chance.”
Core values? In managing the city he expects staff to work hard, think, show respect and interact with the public. With the City Council, he provides professional service.
Homework on BI? He’s read the Comprehensive Plan, Climate Action Plan, the budget and checked out council meetings.
What excited about? He wants to help the city take on some gnarly issues, like social justice, affordable housing, growth, environment. “They’re all hard issues.”
What curious about? “Is roast beef sandwich at Hitchcock’s as good as they say it is?” he joked. He wants to learn “where the rubber meets the road” when it comes to prioritizing goals in BI.
LGBTQ issues? As an Asian man, he said working with diverse groups, “for me is just part of my life.” Coronado is an open, welcoming community, but does not have an LGBTQ group. “I can’t separate that community from any other.”
Affordable housing? He had some great examples of what Coronado has done here, such as the city buying distressed multifamily units and partnering with a nonprofit and using state and federal tax credits to fix them up. The nonprofit manages the property on the city’s behalf. Also, every new multi-family housing unit must set aside a certain number of units for affordable housing. The city also had a program to help first-time homebuyers.
Mobility? He’s also done lots in this area, with the city providing free summer transportation on a ferry to get people off roads. There was a “stigma about taking a public bus” so the city teamed with resorts to use their shuttles. “Ridership increased significantly.” They’ve done a lot with biking, with a high percentage of students bicycling to school. They have put in roundabouts and narrowed lanes. “Our goal is to calm traffic, slow it down.”
Land use? He’s been in no-growth communities that have high standards for buildings and real estate is expensive. They also prefer mom and pop stores downtown and keep chains away.
Career path? He’s not looking for “another lilly pad to jump off.” He’s intrigued about going to another state after being in California so long. With the challenging issues facing BI, he considers it more like a Capstone Project.
Strengths? The magnitue of his background in various cities. “I can’t stop. I always have to learn.”
Climate change? Environmental issues in general are a concern: sea level rising, clean water, greenhouse gases. They are trying to clean up effluent to use the water for parks and a golf course. They’ve also banned straws.
Leadership goals? You can’t over communicate. Be accessible. Articulate what the council wants to staff. Be part of the community. Have a positive workplace.
He is the mayor of Abilene, TX. His father was murdered when he was 4, and a church reached out to help. Ever since then he has wanted to serve. He’s been volunteering since his teens.
Core values? He is a servant leader who follows through on what he says he’s going to do, and shows dignity and worth to everyone.
Homework? He spoke to every elected official and city director, along with reading the Bainbridge Island Review for months. He has researched what makes the community and checked out council meetings – “Those are long meetings, four hours.”
Most excited? “You’d be hard-pressed to find a more engaged community.” The community has a “burning desire to really move the needle on a number of different things.” It has healthy aspirations and dreams.
Curious? BI has had five city managers in 10 years. Some have received high marks but still didn’t work out. When leaving they talked about the struggles between the council and administration. He is curious if the new city manager will be given the ability to have success.
LGBTQ? As an African American, Williams says he is all about diversity. Even though he lives in a conservative part of the state, he ran on a platform of diversity and inclusion. His county is just 5% black yet he continually wins elections, recently with 81%. “I invite different groups of people to join me at the table – not focus any one group.
Affordable housing? The BI City Council has not given clear direction on what that should look like. Should it be for people already here or new people? The vision needs to be identified with succinct expectations. He can help provide the tools and experts. For 15 years in Abilene he has used federal money as leverage to provide family and senior housing.
Mobility? Walking is a priority in rural West Texas so sidewalks have been an emphasis, along with walking to school. He knows mobility is an issue on BI and looks forward to learning more about it.
Land use? Abilene didn’t have a land-use plan until 2004. You need to find out how you want development and what is dear to the community. He knows land preservation is big on the island, and he wants to “deep dive into that.”
Career? He has had great success as an elected official, but has always wanted to be a city manager. He’s only had two jobs in his life and has been married 30 years. Consistency is important. He wants to help BI realize its aspirations and goals.
Strengths? Even though he’s hired by the council, he works for the community. He has the ability to bring diverse people together to get positive results. He can help the council focus, engage the community and inspire staff.
Climate? His council has aggressive markers as early as 2025. He doesn’t want to create an “elaborate vision that never comes to fruition.”
Leadership goals? He hopes to help the council “not go on a tangent but stay focused.” He talked to city staff and feels they have a lot of uncertainty. “They don’t think they can win. I want us all to win.”
He is city manager in Stayton, OR, a town of 8,000.
Core values? Ethics, honesty, sincerity, open-minded, humble, humor. “Transparency can eliminate many challenges in city government.”
Homework? Seattle is his favorite city so he’s been to BI many times. He loves the ferry, quality of life and amazing schools. He’s read the budget, the Climate Action Plan, followed council meetings and reached out to colleagues. He’s talked to the council and department heads.
Excited? BI is in great financial condition and has a desire to make improvements. The community is involved and engaged.
Curious? He wants to understand the culture, goals and values.
LGBTQ? He is an advocate and “serves the best interest of all in the community. We work to remove barriers.” In the hiring process he’s worked to be inclusive and remove biases, to recruit and retain the best talent.
Affordable housing? The key is to create trust and make small incremental changes over time. It’s a challenging issue. There’s no blueprint. Look at what others are doing and find out what the community is looking for.
Mobility? Stayton did a survey and trails, walking and bike paths were a priority. They worked with the Rotary and county and changed codes in the master plan. They got buy in from the public, passed a gas tax and got ADA money.
Land use? Find out what the city wants to look like and partner with others to add value. Provide clear direction and expectations.
Career? He likes Stayton, but BI is “one of those places I couldn’t pass up applying for. I would always wonder.”
Strengths? Race equity and inclusion. Has experience doing work with the same challenges and issues as here.
Climate change? Not a priority in Stayton but an area he wants to grow his skills.
Leadership goals? Bring together the community with shared vision and prioritize. Be involved in community and find out what their values are. “It’s not about me. I want to be the best advocate I can.” He’s excited about community engagement. “Most communities have a problem with that, making it harder to do our job.”