For the second time in its history, Liberty Lake has a new city administrator.
Katy Allen, currently the director of public works and facilities in the city of Bremerton, was named as the appointee by Mayor Steve Peterson at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, concluding a process that began in February with the collection of nearly 50 applications.
“We’re very fortunate to have her on board,” Peterson said. “She is extremely capable, extremely articulate and extremely detailed.”
While Allen may be new to City Hall – her first day is set for June 1 – her family has been part of the Liberty Lake landscape since well before the city incorporated in 2001. Allen and her husband, Randy, have resided in the area since 1983.
Even when working outside the Inland Northwest, as Allen did from 2002 to 2011 as the director of public works and city engineer in San Jose, Calif., she commuted back to her home in Liberty Lake. She and her husband have two grown sons – both graduates of Central Valley High School – and three grandchildren.
“When we first moved here, there wasn’t even a traffic signal,” said Allen at a reception held for the three city administrator finalists at City Hall on April 13.
Former Spokane Valley City Council Member Steve Taylor, currently serving as city administrator in Connell, and Paul Schmidt, who worked for both Cheney and Oak Harbor as city administrator, rounded out the trio of final candidates.
In addition to the open house and tour of the city last weekend, Allen, Taylor and Schmidt took part in an arduous interview process on April 14. Each candidate fielded questions from several interview panels, including one comprised of Liberty Lake residents and another with municipal directors representing departments such as the library, law enforcement and community development. The finalists were also grilled by the City Council and Peterson last Saturday.
Allen will be the first city administrator in Liberty Lake since the end of 2005 when inaugural city administrator Lewis Griffin was released by Peterson. The mayor said at the time that the city had changed since Griffin was first hired and that he was planning to turn more responsibility over to the department directors. Peterson was defeated in the 2007 general election by Council Member Wendy Van Orman who began to seriously address the return of a city administrator toward the close of her administration.
When Peterson ran against Council Member Josh Beckett for mayor in last year’s election, he initially hedged on the idea of bringing back a city administrator. Later in his campaign, he acknowledged it would make sense to have another layer of support at City Hall.
On Tuesday, Peterson reiterated that Liberty Lake would benefit from a change back to the original system.
“The city is at a different level now,” he said.
Mike Cecka, a former city manager who now works for the Seattle-based municipal consulting firm of Prothman, was hired by the city on an interim basis last November to help with the transition of Peterson as mayor and to coordinate the city administrator search. Cecka and Peterson handled most of the preliminary interviews and screening leading up to the announcement of the final three candidates.
Allen, who has bachelor degrees from both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga as well as a master’s in public administration from Eastern, was the only candidate of the three without a city administrator background. She began her career with the city of Spokane and was eventually named director of engineering services and city engineer in 2002.
“This job would be a challenge, but good leaders can adapt,” said Allen at the City Hall reception.