Mike Jackson is moving up the municipal ladder.
The former Spokane Valley deputy city manager who first signed on with the city as the director of parks and recreation in 2003, Jackson will serve as the city manager for at least six months after agreeing to a formal contract this week.
At Tuesday night’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, City Attorney Mike Connelly provided an overview of the letter of agreement between the city and Jackson, finalizing a process that began with the release of longtime City Manager Dave Mercier on Jan. 5. Council members approved the terms of Jackson’s contract with a unanimous vote.
Jackson’s annual salary will be set at $144,000, plus a monthly car allowance of $400. He will also retain all the benefits he received as deputy city manager. The contract states that the City Council will determine within six months whether to designate Jackson as the permanent city manager or to launch a search. Jackson could apply as a candidate if a search does take place.
Council Member Rose Dempsey raised a question regarding Jackson’s salary after Connelly mentioned that the $144,000 wage was at the low end of a range for jurisdictions with similar populations. While city managers in comparable cities can earn up to $160,000, Connelly said Spokane Valley is in a unique situation because it contracts for a variety of significant services.
Connelly added that Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey had reviewed the salary range during the city manager discussions.
Dempsey said she still had “reservations about the salary.”
“I’m concerned this would be the basis for a new contract,” she said.
Connelly told council members last month that a professional search for a permanent city manager could cost Spokane Valley around $30,000, an approach utilized by 90 percent of cities in the same population range. He added that the city’s human resources department could conduct a more conservative search for approximately $10,000.
The city still owes Mercier the salary and benefits – over $175,000 – as part of his remaining contract.
Council Member Bill Gothmann applauded the decision to hire an interim city manager but emphasized “there still needs to be some education about the responsibilities of a city manager” before Spokane Valley confirms a full-time replacement.
“I think that would put (City Council) in a position to select a finalist,” he said.
In other council news:
- Gothmann was one of several city representatives to report on discussions with legislators as part of a visit to Olympia last week with a contingent from the Association of Washington Cities. While Gothmann described meetings with leaders like Reps. Larry Crouse and Matt Shea as productive, he added that council members “should arrange a schedule ahead of time…and fully understand what the legislative agenda is” before embarking on the next trip to the state capital.
- Council Members Dean Grafos and Gary Schimmels both went through orientation with the Spokane Transit Authority after being appointed to the organization’s board of directors last month. Grafos said the early conversations with the agency involved “common issues that affect the community.” Grafos and Schimmels replace former Council Members Rich Munson and Dick Denenny on the STA board.
- Towey met with superintendents of the East Valley and West Valley school districts and attended a Central Valley School District strategic planning summit at CenterPlace that he said “concentrated on how the community can help out the school district.”
- Council members approved a first reading of Ordinance 10-004 which would allow for the establishment of development agreements within amendments made to the city’s comprehensive plan. The change would increase flexibility in areas such as building height, setbacks, density and landscaping.
- Kate Kennedy of the Spokane County Housing and Community Development department provided an overview of the county’s Homelessness Prevention Program and asked for Spokane Valley’s support in promoting the resource. The program offers financial assistance to cover rent and utilities and can be accessed by calling 2-1-1 or online at www.spokanecountyhprp.com. The city agreed to help by posting pamphlets and posters at City Hall.