Council waives residency requirement for Federal Way's next city manager

Federal Way temporarily waived the requirement that a new city manager reside within city limits.

The city council voted on the issue May 19 at its regularly scheduled meeting. The measure comes at a time when the council is looking for a candidate to replace its former leader, Neal Beets, who signed a separation agreement with the city May 5 after the council voted to not renew his contract.

The ordinance was adjusted in hopes that the real estate market will not play a factor in the city's search. It could provide the atmosphere for a qualified individual already living in the state to apply for the position, deputy mayor Eric Faison said.

Failing to amend the ordinance could have resulted in a lack of qualified candidates, he said. Now, candidates living within commuting distance will not be discouraged to apply for the position if faced with selling their home and moving to Federal Way — and possibly garnering less in the real estate market than could be made in better economic times.

"We really want the best candidate out there," Faison said.

The ordinance's requirements are waived until December 2012. Though city councils generally prefer a manager who resides within the city, Federal Way is unique, Faison said. Someone working in the community can still grasp the city's synergy and get a feel for its population and needs, he said. The council does not currently have plans to return the ordinance to its original language after hiring a city manager, Faison said. If a person outside Federal Way lands the job, he or she may be able to serve as Federal Way city manager while living in another community until the end of 2012.

The residency exception applies only to candidates living within commuting distance. There is no stipulation that assistant city managers or other management staff reside in Federal Way. Currently, interim city manager Brian Wilson commutes from Seattle, and assistant city manager and chief financial officer Bryant Enge lives in Bothell.

The city actively advertised for the city manager position through May 22. Faison said he received phone calls regarding the position, but the council will not make public who applies until finalists are announced. The city council still hopes to fill the position within a five-month time frame, Fasion said. The council has chosen not to hire a contractor to recruit candidates, as it did in 2006, when Beets was chosen to lead the city's day-to-day operations.

"I wasn't convinced we got a stronger group of candidates than we could get on our own," Faison said in regards to the decision.

Another reason for turning away from a recruiting agency: The desire to attract candidates residing in, and familiar with, Washington state, he said. Washington and the Pacific Northwest present challenges and opportunities not found elsewhere in the United States, and someone already familiar with those is preferred, Faison said.

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