When Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson announced in November 2005 that the organizational chart at City Hall would undergo some changes at the start of 2006, he thanked outgoing City Administrator Lewis Griffin for his “strong and effective leadership.”
Peterson, who served as mayor of Spokane County’s easternmost city from incorporation in 2001 until the end of 2007 when he lost in the general election to Council Member Wendy Van Orman, said the elimination of the city administrator position would mean additional responsibility for department directors like Police Chief Brian Asmus, Community Development Director Doug Smith and Finance Director Arlene Fisher. Griffin, who had come to Liberty Lake in 2001 after serving as city manager of Colfax, was less than enthused about the change and moved on to become city manager in Connell.
Since Griffin cleared out his desk in December 2005, Liberty Lake has been without a city administrator – the vacancy was part of the reason a handful of residents started a petition last year to put a proposed change to the city’s form of government on the general election ballot. The initiative – which was voted down by over 70 percent of citizens last November – would have replaced the current strong mayor/city council system with a city manager/council structure.
Now Peterson is back in office, defeating Council Member Josh Beckett in the general election by a 74-percent margin. As for the roster at City Hall, the former and current mayor has made it clear that bringing back a city administrator is a top priority.
“We have different issues as a city now,” Peterson said. “I think a city administrator with knowledge and maturity will provide good continuity as we go forward.”
The City Council has already set aside funds in the 2012 budget for a city administrator, with a portion of that already allotted to interim City Administrator Mike Cecka who was brought on last November. Cecka, a former city administrator who works for Prothman, a Seattle-based municipal consulting firm, is working with Peterson on the process of hiring a full-time city administrator.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Cecka provided an update on the search process, noting that the city had received 39 applications since the posting went out in early January. The listing is included in the employment section of the Association of Washington Cities Web site as well as similar resources in Oregon and Idaho.
Cecka said the proximity to a metropolitan area like Spokane, the competitive salary (mentioned in the range of $95,000 to $125,000) and Liberty Lake’s reputation as a stable community are some of the major reasons for the positive response. He called the current collection of candidates “excellent.”
Applications will be accepted until Feb. 29.
According to the AWC job description, the city administrator will coordinate duties of the finance, community development, police and library departments. Griffin, who passed away in December 2008 from lung cancer, also oversaw responsibilities such as collecting sales tax, maintaining city contracts and facilitating franchise agreements.
Cecka said he and Peterson will review the resumes and whittle the field of applicants down to a dozen, at which point, phone interviews will take place. A half-dozen finalists will then be announced. Those candidates will then visit Liberty Lake and be part of several interviews at City Hall that will include Peterson, Cecka and representatives from the City Council. Cecka added that a community open house – similar to an event hosted by the Spokane County Library District during its recent executive director search – could also be part of the process.
“We’re looking for a leader who will work well with the community, be a sounding board for employees and management and provide guidance to the council,” Peterson said.
While the task of appointing the city administrator will fall upon the mayor, the selectioin requires a confirmation by a majority vote of the City Council. Cecka said the timeline for the actual appointment will likely occur sometime in mid-April.