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Mayor Skip Priest customizes management at Federal Way City Hall | Unfilled positions save money

Skip Priest chats with city finance director Tho Kraus during a meet-and-greet in November at City Hall, where Priest took the oath of office and was officially sworn-in as mayor. - File photo
Skip Priest chats with city finance director Tho Kraus during a meet-and-greet in November at City Hall, where Priest took the oath of office and was officially sworn-in as mayor.
— image credit: File photo

Federal Way’s new mayor, Skip Priest, rang in the new year with a change to his management team.

Priest announced on Jan. 4 that he hired two new employees to help him in the mayor’s office, and restructured the responsibilities of two existing department directors. Priest said the changes come in an effort to create a sustainable short-term and long-term budget. A savings of $885,000 will be seen in the 2011-2012 biennium as a result of the changes, spokesman Chris Carrel said.

“We start the new year with a team of very highly qualified members of our staff,” Priest said.

Doubled-up duties

Priest consolidated the economic development and community development departments. The position of community development director, formerly held by Greg Fewins, who retired at the end of 2010, will now be handled by Patrick Doherty, the city’s former economic development director. Doherty now holds the title of Community and Economic Development Director.

Doherty has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in urban planning, and has worked in community and economic development for nearly 30 years. He worked with the City of Seattle for about 16 years before joining Federal Way in 2001 as the deputy director of community development services. In 2004, he was named Federal Way’s economic development director. Doherty’s annual salary of $116,000, plus benefits totaling $26,000, will not change with his new role, Priest said.

Bryant Enge, former financial services administrator, now holds the title of administrative services director. He oversees the city’s human resources department. The director position within the department was opened when Mary McDougal left at the end of 2010 to take a job with the City of Tacoma. Jean Stanley, a former human resources analyst, has acted as the interim HR director since McDougal left. She will remain in the director’s position with Enge as her supervisor. Stanley’s previous analyst position will stay vacant.

Additionally, Priest will rely on Enge to take on other responsibilities. The information technology (IT) department and human services will also answer to Enge. The IT department’s former head, Medhi Sadri, left this past spring to work for the City of Renton. Former IT analyst Thomas Fichtner stepped into a leading role within the department, leaving the analyst spot empty. The analyst position will not be filled.

Enge was hired in 2008 as Federal Way’s assistant city manager and chief financial officer when Iwen Wang, former assistant city manager and CFO, resigned to fill a similar position with the City of Renton. Enge holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and mathematics from Oregon State University and a business administration master’s degree in finance from the University of Oregon. Like Doherty, he will not see a pay increase for taking on additional responsibilities, Priest said. Enge is due to receive $141,000 this year, plus $42,000 in benefits.

Doherty and Enge will join Cary Roe in holding multiple director titles. Roe is the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services as well as public works, which includes overseeing the emergency management department.

Priest said both Doherty and Enge are happy to take on more responsibility without additional pay. They, as well as other staff members, know the city is facing tough economic times and are willing to help where they can, he said.

“We’re looking for more and more department heads as well as other employees to take on more than one role,” Priest said.

New hires

Though the city council budgeted $195,000 for Priest to hire a chief administrative officer (CAO), he has declined to do so. Instead, he has hired Steve Cain to act as the executive assistant to the mayor, and hired Chris Carrel as the communication and grant coordinator.

Cain, who was Priest’s assistant for five years when he served as a 30th District state representative, will be responsible for the mayor’s schedule, among other things. He will arrange meetings and take part in government affairs. He will also be involved in grant writing and filling public records requests, Priest said. Cain will receive an annual salary of $48,000. The council had allowed $60,000 in the 2011-2012 budget for his position, Priest said.

The mayor’s assistant position was advertised internally for one week, Stanley said. From Dec. 20-27, the job opening was posted at City Hall and sent to employees who were laid off in November, she said. There were two applicants.

Carrel, best known for his work as Friends of the Hylebos executive director, will serve as the city’s spokesperson and grant writer. A person with grant writing skills and familiarity with the media was needed to fill the position, Priest said. Carrel’s annual salary is $63,000, with benefits of $20,000; his position was not outlined in the 2011-2012 budget.

Carrel’s duties include much of those performed by former spokeswoman Linda Farmer, with the addition of grant writing. Farmer was among the 15 staff members who were laid off at the end of 2010 when the council passed then-city manager Brian Wilson’s 2011-2012 budget. Priest will oversee Carrel.

The communication position was also advertised for only one week. The job was posted on the city’s website, and a notice of employment was distributed to about 150 agencies, including other city governments and the Association of Washington Cities, the week of Dec. 21-28, Stanley said. Notice was also provided to laid off employees, she said. Nine applications were received.

Neither of the newly-created positions were advertised in the city's paper of record, The Mirror. Stanley said this was due to budget constraints.

Proposed savings

The new additions and reorganization of the city’s management team will save the city $885,000 in the 2011-2012 biennium, Carrel said.

The savings originate from not filling empty positions, he said. An annual savings of $163,000 (salary plus benefits) are realized by not hiring a community development director, he said. Another $147,000 is saved by not filling Stanley’s former position as a human resources analyst, he said. An additional $92,000 is saved by keeping Fichtner’s former IT analyst position unfilled. The city will save $12,000 by paying Cain a salary lower than budgeted.

Another $195,000 will be saved by not hiring a chief administrative officer. Carrel’s salary will be deducted from this total ($609,000) to end with a $526,000 savings in 2011.

“The goal is to provide high quality services to our residents in the most cost-effective manner possible,” Priest said.

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