City fills vacant director positions4 of 5 department heads resigned over 5-month period
Not counting the police chief and the fire chief, four of the city’s five department director positions have sat vacant for months. As of this month, nearly all of those positions have been filled.
Finance Director Michelle Meyer started April 3 and Public Works Director Mick Matheson started April 10. During its April 17 meeting, the City Council confirmed Management Services Director Steve Edin. He starts April 24.
After receiving some 43 applications and whittling them down to six, Human Resources Manager Julie Good and Mayor Jennifer Gregerson completed interviews last week for the Recreation and Cultural Services Director position.
Following a background check, Gregerson said that person, who she declined to name, would be presented to the council on May 1 for confirmation before starting work May 15.
“With that, we’ll have all our director-level positions filled,” Gregerson said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to have a mostly new team with fresh eyes come together to ensure Mukilteo remains a great place to live and work.”
Chris Phillips, who was hired as Management Services Director in October 2014, became the city’s latest director casualty when he left Feb. 13. Prior to that, Jennifer Berner, who was hired as Recreation and Cultural Services Director in August 2007, departed Feb. 3.
Hired in October 2015, former Finance Director Doug Volesky’s last day was Dec. 30. Former Public Works Director Rob McGaughey, who was hired in 2013, left on Oct. 12.
Edin, who is replacing Phillips, beat out 44 other applicants. He’ll make $10,000 per month, compared to Phillips’ monthly salary of $9,941.
Meyer, who is replacing Volesky, beat out 16 other applicants. She’s making between $9,333.28 and $11,344.66 per month, compared to Volesky’s monthly salary of $9,204.76.
Matheson, who is replacing McGaughey, beat out nine other applicants. He’s making between $9,333.28 and $11,344.66 per month, compared to McGaughey’s monthly salary of $9,771.19.
Edin is coming to Mukilteo after more than 11 years as Human Resources Manager for the city of Lake Stevens.
“So much of the Management Services Director position is dealing with all the employees at the city, so it’s good he has that background,” Gregerson said.
While Mukilteo is a bit larger than Lake Stevens, Edin said the cities have more similarities than differences.
“Mukilteo and Lake Stevens are actually very similar in size and operation,” he said. “Lake Stevens has 80 employees and Mukilteo has something like 123. Neither operate their own water and sewer utility; both have a separate water and sewer district. This is a good move for me because of all the similarities.”
Prior to Lake Stevens, Edin worked in accounting and finance roles at the city of Marysville for 16 years. He lives there and plans to commute to Mukilteo.
Edin said he’s excited to begin working not only with existing staff but also the other new department directors.
“My management style is that I don’t want to go in like a bull in a china closet and make changes in the first 90 days,” he said. “I’m big on team building and collaboration between departments, so I’m excited to get to know all the different department heads.”
Edin said moving into this position has been a career goal that he has been preparing for over the last few decades. He said he’s eager to take what he’s learned over the years to bring city staff together.
“I’ve had a lot of exposure to not just human resources, but police and public works and how they operate,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be able to use a lot of that experience. I want us to move the city forward as one unit.”
Meyer has relocated from Bel Aire, Kansas, to Lynnwood, bringing her father and 18-year-old son with her.
“When my son finished high school, we decided to branch out,” she said. “We decided we wanted to be somewhere pretty and in a more progressive part of the country. I couldn’t ask to be in a more beautiful place. I have to pinch myself every day driving home when I look up and see the mountains.”
Meyer was born and raised in New Jersey, and relocated to Kansas for graduate school, earning a Master of Public Administration in 2008. She has spent the last 14 years working in finance for the city of Bel Aire, and the last six years as that city’s finance director.
“Michelle has some really great experience in a couple cities that had limited staff and real challenges,” Gregerson said.
As a Finance Director, Meyer earned the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for three years. Bel Aire had never earned the award prior to her leadership.
“I’m a team player,” she said. “My goal is to work with the mayor and the council and the other department heads to make sure that the documents I’m producing are reflective of their priorities.”
Recognizing that the city stumbled on its financial accounting and reporting in 2014 and 2015, Meyer said she’s thankful to be following in Volesky’s footsteps.
“I think he gets the credit for turning the tide and stabilizing the department,” she said. “I want to try to pick up where he left off and keep that going.”
Unlike her predecessors, Meyer said she plans to stay awhile.
“I wouldn’t have picked up and moved across the country if I didn’t expect to be here for at least a few years,” she said.
Matheson came to Mukilteo last week after six years as Public Works Director for the city of Sultan, but it’s his private sector experience that he believes has given him the edge.
“In my previous life, I was a principal and project manager at Triad Associates,” he said. “I was responsible for managing upwards of 30 projects at one time, as well as about 40-50 people. I think the private sector experience was really a feather in my cap in getting hired here.”
“Mick’s public and private sector experience gives him the ability to work creatively and solve problems,” she said. “I think that’s important in public works and engineering.”
Matheson lives in Monroe and plans to commute to Mukilteo. His wife is a teacher at Sultan Elementary School and his son is a junior at Sultan Senior High School.
Matheson said coming to Mukilteo means his staff will more than double, especially in the office.
“In Sultan, I didn’t have any help in the office, except for the receptionist,” he said. “Here, I have lots of support staff to help out. I’ll be doing a lot more people management here than I did in Sultan.”
Matheson said he moved into the public sector after the Great Recession caused his company to lay him and many others off.
“Triad contracted from 120 people to about 20 people,” he said. “We lost a lot of principal-level people. Thirty-year veterans were laid off.”
Eventually, he landed a temporary assistant public engineer position with Seattle Public Utilities, but the job didn’t offer benefits, so he was thankful when he got the chance to move into a full-time position in Sultan.
“In Sultan, I was the Public Works Director, the City Engineer, the Parks Director and the primary grant writer,” he said.
In fact, he said he’s learned a lot about grant writing, especially since 2014 when he became a member of the state Transportation Improvement Board, which uses money collected through the statewide gas tax for street construction and maintenance grants.
“It has given me insight into how to develop successful grant applications,” he said. “In Sultan, we didn’t do any street improvements unless we had a grant, because we only budgeted about $12,000 per year for pavement preservation.”
Matheson said he’s only been able to turn his full attention to Mukilteo and its current projects in the last week.
“I was working my tail off to make sure the transition was smooth in Sultan, so I wasn’t able to focus on Mukilteo until this week,” he said last week. “I’m studying maps and going through the Capital Improvement Plan, but it’s still early. I’ve been to a dozen different meetings this week already, and I’m trying to study in between.”
Upon his confirmation by the council on May 20, Matheson said he’d been looking forward to exploring Mukilteo’s many opportunities.
“There’s a lot of cool projects that you guys have in front of you,” he told the council. “I’m looking forward to jumping in and making some progress on those.”