Council member offers perspective on city manager

Monica MickHager Guest Column
Posted 7/10/24


As an elected city councillor, I don’t usually write to the newspaper editor.   However, I think the recent article on John Mauro’s city manager work was misleading. Here …

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Council member offers perspective on city manager



As an elected city councillor, I don’t usually write to the newspaper editor.  However, I think the recent article on John Mauro’s city manager work was misleading. Here is a different perspective on John’s work for these past 5 years.

I ran for my first term 5½ years ago because of grave concerns about our city government and city council. In 20 years with our previous Port Townsend city manager, our city acquired about $20 million dollars of debt. No local road maintenance was done in his tenure and he did not personally participate in our community except for his city council appearances. Engaging community participation on city projects trickled down to almost nothing by the end of his 20 years as city manager.

John Mauro and I started our new jobs for our city a few weeks apart.  Here are examples of what I have seen him and our city staff accomplish for us.

FIRst year

John worked with all local public agencies to guide us through the early years of Covid.  Out of this collaboration came the Intergovernmental Collaborative Group with all electeds from PUD, Port, County and City meeting quarterly and working on issues and projects for all of us.  This agency collaboration hadn’t happened in the prior three decades I’ve lived here.  He managed our city budget so we ended Covid year one in the black even though we all were shut down. The pandemic had a huge impact on actual tax revenues the city received compared to what had been anticipated. John’s diligent work kept our expenses in line with what we could spend and it was his first budget as our city manager.

SECOnd-THIrd years

John and our city staff successfully negotiated a new lease with our local paper mill, so for the first time, all water users are paying for the upkeep/repair and improvements needed in this 28+ mile system. In just the first two years the city collected $4.9 million in this fund account for future work on our water system to ensure that we all will continue to have water.  The bulk of this amount comes from the mill, which uses the lion’s share of the water from this system.

Many of our staff who worked with our first city manager left through retirement, or the new world Covid created, or they just didn’t want to work for the leadership of a new city manager and new city council. John successfully hired and filled almost all of these positions which ran the gamut through department heads, clerks and administration to our street and park working staff positions.

FouRth year

John successfully managed our city staff and worked with council to create our working “Complete Streets” document, which led us to put the Transportation Benefit District on the ballot. It was handily voted in by our Port Townsend voters with nearly 80% support.  We now have a working fund to fix our roads and we have started this work!  He envisioned and created a community task force that our financial staff worked side by side with and generated our Financial Sustainability Report. It is not only being used on almost every decision the city council makes with our budgets but has won a national award in recognition of this forward-thinking strategic approach to managing city cost, revenue and debt.

Fifth year - in process

John has managed and supported city staff in these beginning months of public outreach for the 20-year update of our Comprehensive  Plan. In my 11 years on the city planning commission I worked on our 2016 update with few resources from our former city manager.   The current Comp Plan update process will last this whole year with many opportunities for public input. Outreach has already started and solid staff time is budgeted with the help of grants that our staff acquired for our city.  We have the tools this time around to create a Comp Plan that will reflect what we as a community want to see for our town’s future.

I would like to remind everyone that none of us is perfect. I’ve written this to offer my community a different and more complete overview of John’s positive impacts. John Mauro has my support as a seated city councillor and I look forward to working with him on other important issues for our community.

Monica MickHager serves in Position 3 on the Port Townsend City Council.