High hopes for new city manager, begins role Nov. 1

Posted 10/30/19

John Mauro officially steps into the job of Port Townsend’s new city manager on Nov. 1, and he’s going to have a full plate of expectations awaiting him.

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High hopes for new city manager, begins role Nov. 1

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John Mauro officially steps into the job of Port Townsend’s new city manager on Nov. 1, and he’s going to have a full plate of expectations awaiting him.

When the Port Townsend City Council selected Mauro, Mayor Deborah Stinson described him as “the right person at the right time” for Port Townsend, due to his smarts, curiosity and experience, and she expressed confidence that Mauro would benefit from outgoing city manager David Timmons’ “solid foundation” to be able to take the city “to the next level.”

During her candidate forum alongside challenger Monica MickHager, Stinson praised Timmons for “getting a lot done,” but anticipated that Mauro would bring “a new spark,” meet citizens’ expectations that he be able to “mix it up with the community,” and bring with him ideas on how to address climate change.

Although she differed with Stinson on a number of issues, MickHager expressed “great hopes” that Mauro would be a visible presence in the community’s festivals and other events, and that he would make himself accessible to the public and be “invested in public participation” and willing to “listen to our community — not just about the things we love, but the things we don’t love.”

When contacted by The Leader, Stinson referred to the government relations contract that was unanimously adopted by the council on Feb. 4, in preparation to recruit a new manager.

“It would be inappropriate for me, or any individual council member, to add expectations that cannot be traced back to this agreement,” Stinson said.

While Timmons had told The Leader that he initially labored under expectations by previous council members that went beyond his job description, Stinson believes “the spirit of mutual respect and support to achieve common goals” should prevent a repeat of the situation that Timmons dealt with in the early days of his tenure.

“I also believe that we have found a manager who meets the expectations outlined in this contract, and is thus capable of raising any concerns, should such situations arise, before they become a problem,” Stinson said.

“Civic engagement”

When the council made its selection, Deputy Mayor David Faber described Mauro as “far and away my favorite” due to a level of community engagement that Faber considers essential for Port Townsend, as well as a level of research Mauro conducted that was “above and beyond what we ever could have expected.”

That being said, Faber echoed Stinson in emphasizing that his expectation of Mauro is that he do “a good job” in line with the expectations that the council outlined in his job description.

“I am particularly hopeful and expecting that he will be a good public persona, and encourage the community toward renewed civic engagement,” Faber said.

Faber characterized the city manager job as “something of a true full-time gig, at least when it comes to emergencies and urgent action,” but added he was nonetheless “dismayed” when he heard how some previous council members had “abused that open line of communication” with Timmons.

“John has a young family, and needs to have the opportunity to live a private life, too,” Faber said.

“Visionary”

When Mauro was selected, council member Amy Howard said she not only believed it appropriate to set “an incredibly high bar for expectations” for Port Townsend, but also wanted a city manager who would raise that bar, and she sees Mauro as the sort of “visionary” who’s up to that task.

During her candidate forum, both Howard and her challenger, Bernie Arthur, agreed that the incoming city manager needs to be visible to the public and involved in the community, which Arthur believes that Timmons was not, and Howard believes Mauro will be.

“Exceed our expectations”

Council member April Speser chimed in via speakerphone during the final selection to add her voice to those in favor of Mauro, for his energetic demeanor, his interview performances, his “ability to embrace and engage with the community,” and what she saw in his resume of his “commitment to working with local tribes.”

Although Speser was impressed by Mauro’s understanding of climate change issues, she felt it was more important that Mauro “is a lifelong learner.”

When contacted by The Leader, Speser said she expected he would be able to fulfill the role of city manager and perform all of the duties of the job, as well as meet the basic needs of Port Townsend’s city government.

“I suspect that he is likely to exceed our expectations in this regard,” Speser said. “My hope is also that he will very much enjoy being part of our community, and find the job to be meaningful and important work.”

Speser expressed confidence that city staff, community members and Mauro himself would “find the right balance, that promotes open and direct channels of communication,” while being respectful of everyone’s time and needs.

“Mr. Mauro is a professional and has worked in many positions where there have been various demands on his time,” Speser said. “I anticipate that he is well-equipped to perform the duties of the job during appropriate business hours, and should there ever be an unexpected emergency warranting his immediate attention, regarding the city’s safety or wellbeing, I have no doubt that he will be present and available in a meaningful way.”

Council member Michelle Sandoval set the tone for the comments during the final selection by naming Mauro as her choice due to his intelligence, curiosity and level of engagement with the community, all of which she believed were evident in the level of research Mauro did on the community and charities of Port Townsend.

“He has a modern outlook,” said Sandoval, who credited Timmons with setting Port Townsend on a promising course for the future, especially in the areas of sustainable budgets and infrastructure.

“And the Pacific Northwest is in his blood, even though he lives quite far away.”

“Best in the world” climate planner

Council member Pam Adams said she felt “very confident” in selecting Mauro, not just because of his research into the city manager position or Port Townsend’s nonprofits, but also because of his background in man-made climate change issues.

“The climate action plan he was part of for Auckland is one of the best in the world,” Adams said.

Adams later told The Leader, “I try not to have too many expectations, but I do have some hopes.”

One is for Mauro to come up with some “fresh ideas” for revenue streams, so that the city can provide needed services and infrastructure, “without always laying the burden on the taxpayers.”

Adam expressed enthusiasm over the prospect of working with Mauro and getting to know him.

“I’m sure I will email and call him and even occasionally stop by during office hours,” Adams said. “I feel a long discussion would require setting a time to meet. He will let us know the best way to connect and communicate.”

Although his term in office will end shortly after Mauro’s begins, Bob Gray said his mind was made up on behalf of Mauro by the public comments in his favor.

“Even before he’d applied, the public’s descriptions of their ideal candidate matched what we found in John,” Gray said. “He is going to be challenged by this community, but with his energy, I think he’s up for it.”

Nora Mitchell, who served as the interim city manager, acknowledged that it would take Mauro “a little time” to get here, “but when he’s here, he’s going to be fully ready to engage.”

When asked what he expected of the incoming Port Townsend city manager, Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan said, “Be a good neighbor. Relationships countywide and regionally are critical to the city. If something doesn’t work for your neighbors, it probably needs more work. There is a reason some version of the Golden Rule is found in every culture.”

Comments

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HarveyW

The voting public should not forget that Mr. Mauro is the sole employee of the No Term Limit City Council. Responsible as Timmons should have been to make sure basics are funded before spending of frills. Council members quoted here act as though they had no part in the list of 10 items and more needing attention that I will include at the end of this comment. "Revenue streams" one Council member hopes Mr. Mauro will find are existing taxes, squandered for items such as the just completed concrete "park" just across from the visitor center, done with a whopping 1.2 million final cost after financing costs (this amount is according to one council member). Mr. Mauro should not shoulder the weight of the effects of mis spent public money.

With the same Council core, one member at 16 years, one at 18 years, Stinson 2 time appointed Mayor at 8 years wanting 4 more, Mr. Mauro would be better guided with some new input with fresh members of the No Term Limit Council. The more clean hands the better for the long trip back to professional City Management. The power core of the Council has led every resident of Port Townsend into economic difficulty to provide basics in favor of non basic curb appeal. The City of Port Townsend is 17 million in debt. 1.7 million a year just to service that debt. REET taxes that could have gone for moderate income housing was spent on a concrete park without public input. None. Everyone knows what interests benefit. Not the public as a whole. Aspenization. The Timmons/No Term Limit legacy.

Good luck Mr. Mauro. For beginners on your first day onward, and for years past the City Ordinance regarding parking has been ignored by the No Term Limit Council for years on end. Stinson's administration deconstructed the volunteer program. How will Mr. Mauro fix that? The Council has ignored public input detailing problems. There are dozens of regular vehicles displacing customers daily. For years.

These self serving incompetent No Term Limit Council members are the folks you will have to navigate around to keep your job. How to keep your job and tell your bosses they are financially incompetent is your personal task Mr. Mauro. That skill is "very modern". Here are a few other items they have ignored.

1) Short staffed Police.

2) Underpaid Police.

3) Roads in bad condition and the growing cost to maintain or repave as they continue to degrade.

4) No Animal Control and ongoing documented problems.

5) Being unresponsive to the damaging effects of elimination of parking enforcement and deconstruction of the volunteer parking program. (5 years of photo documentation went unanswered) Leaders lead, they don't hide.

6) Having absolutely no parking plan in place for years, even after expensive studies.

7) The $1.2 million final cost Visitor Center obscuring park/sculpture project that is a monument to no public input as to priority, and at the cost of other much needed items ignored in the budget or needed budget. STINSON'S FOLLY is there as a reminder of skewed priorities.

8) The refusal to facilitate the Planning Commission reviewing laws and codes as they requested and were denied, related to the comprehensive plan.

(9 Not dealing with growing debt service without public input that hamstrings the ability to do needed basic projects, even moderate income housing, (REET tax money spent elsewhere), somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 million dollars per year and total debt of around 17 million dollars.

10) What the Editor of the Leader described as a lack of public input during the formative time of selecting the new City Manager. Then, evasive and obstructive actions by Stinson and false claims of relevant law when he requested information after the job offer was accepted by the new City Manager. Open government?

Friday, November 1, 2019