Asked about the latest City Council plan to extend his contract another six months, David Timmons says it reminds him of The Godfather: Part III.
“Just when I thought I was out,” actor Al Pacino seethes, playing Don Michael Corleone, “they pull me back in!”
Timmons, Port Townsend’s City Manager since 1999, has been trying to retire for the last three years.
He’d like to avoid leaving us in the lurch, so he has been willing to delay his departure to ensure a smooth transition. After all, important things are afoot: renegotiation of the paper mill’s water lease, improvements to the library, park and YMCA and a dozen smaller issues Port Townsend’s chief executive referees every day.
After a health scare, Timmons started working on succession planning citywide in recognition of the greying workforce there and in 2015 announced his plan to retire at the end of 2018. When the city couldn’t afford to hire an assistant/trainee and then missed early search committee deadlines, he agreed to extend his tenure another six months.
That gave the city an ideal target date, so that candidates young and old were accommodated. If you’ve ever moved in the middle of a school year, you know the choice is either wrenching dislocation for a family’s kids or a lonely and expensive splitting of the household.
Now the City Council is a little behind and crowding the all-important end-game into a few weeks.
Going all-out on public engagement, a worthy exercise, used up the winter and spring months. With the clock ticking loudly, the council hired a head-hunter to speed things up and to solicit viable candidates.
Interviews with those candidates won’t start for another week, so if the Council finds a consensus choice, negotiations would probably take until the end of the month.
Since we want to hire the type of person who gives adequate notice to their current employer and the local housing market is challenging, add another thirty days or so.
In perfect circumstances, a new city manager won’t be seated until sometime in September, which is why the City Council has asked Timmons to sign a part-time contract for another six months. That way he can assist Acting City Manager Norah Mitchell and answer any questions that arise if a new city manager wants to tap Timmons’ memory.
Circumstances are rarely perfect. What if the council can’t agree on a candidate? What if it can, but the candidate can’t make the salary work in this housing market?
Back to the drawing board. Should Timmons continue to hang around?
It’s noble of Timmons to muster humor, joking about Don Corleone’s failed attempt to go straight. He could be bitter.
As the first person to hold the job, he had the thankless task of schooling an unruly City Hall.
Council members in their cups would call him at home late at night to profanely rail. When he took his wife out for dinner, elected officials thought nothing of interrupting to carry on with business as though he were still on the clock. Lacking clarity about his role, City Council members tried to enlist the manager in their battles with each other and when they tired of him, non-fans leaked his performance reviews to The Leader to try to pressure him to leave.
Certainly he’s made mistakes, as humans do.
After 20 years, Timmons deserves to retire, and not feet-first, the way Corleone did.
Taking the long view of City Hall’s “Come here. Get away. No, come back,” relations with Timmons, maybe the more appropriate pop culture archetype is the protagonist of the hit Supremes song, trying to break free of co-dependence:
“Set me free, why don’t cha, babe. Get out my life, why don’t cha, babe...You just keep me hangin’ on.”
Here’s hoping the council manages a clean break and Timmons gets out without them pulling him back in...again.
The Leader’s Editorials are the opinion of the Editorial Board: Publisher Lloyd Mullen; co-owner Louis Mullen; Editor Dean Miller and Leader readers who lobby The Leader. Each editorial is signed by the person who writes that editorial on behalf of the Editorial Board.