The city of Port Townsend is soliciting input on what the public wants from its new city manager.
After 20 years as the Port Townsend city manager, David Timmons has spent the past year preparing to exit the position and is projected to depart in June 2019.
The Port Townsend City Council appointed a community task force this fall to propose a profile for the next city manager. The task force is guiding the recruitment process based on public input.
The Community City Manager Recruitment Task Force held a public conversation Nov. 29 at the Cotton Building, where they split up the public into nine groups, each consisting of five attendees and one moderator.
John Collins described his group as deeply concerned with the “culture, character and community” of Port Townsend, a concern he said they expect their new city manager to share.
“They want the new city manager to appreciate the community they have here, and to become a part of it,” said Collins, a moderator.
Collins said his group told him they wanted to preserve their rural quality of life, and wanted a city manager who would help actively promote the economic bases of both the city and county, from the maritime industry to agricultural fields.
“They felt strongly about sustaining and strengthening what we have so we don’t just become another Leavenworth,” Collins said. “They recognized the importance of tourism, but they don’t want us to be about only that.”
While Collins’ group called for a city manager who would be “engaged” with the community, they also wanted the next city manager to “facilitate open, robust public participation in the process, without feeling challenged by it,” an area Collins heard some participants suggest might have “slipped in recent years.”
Moderator Samantha Thomas said her group voiced many of the same community concerns as did Collins’ group, from affordable housing to climate change.
“They want livable-wage jobs to attract younger families to live here,” Thomas said. “With climate change, they also want their neighborhoods to be able to react to disasters, and their community to be able to partner with various levels of the government.”
And while Thomas’ group expects skilled candidates for the city manager role, she reported “the top qualities they desire are the abilities to collaborate and empathize” with citizens.
“They want the new city manager to understand Port Townsend is a place of diversity with a unique history and multigenerational connections,” Thomas said. “It was important to them that any city manager understand the value of community participation in government, and that they embrace it and promote it.”
Thomas touted the large turnout as but one example of how the community is engaged in efforts to improve the city.
“There’s already a lot of civic involvement here, but they want to see more of that,” Thomas said. “They want to see outreach to the folks who might not read the paper or attend meetings like this.”
Thomas hopes the community understands the role of the city manager includes working with the city council to enact the community’s vision, as expressed in the comprehensive plan, through the political process into concrete steps in real life.
Port Townsend citizens may respond to a survey by Dec. 14.