Mayor appoints new Public Works director

By Sara Bruestle | Jun 05, 2013
Rob McGaughey

Rob McGaughey went to work on May 31 as the city's new Public Works director – but he wasn’t approved by City Council until three days later.

After the council delayed it a week, Mayor Joe Marine on Monday announced the appointment of McGaughey as the new head of the city’s Public Works Department.

McGaughey replaces former Public Works director Larry Waters, who retired on May 31 after nearly seven years of service. The council approved his appointment June 3 by a vote of 5-2.

McGaughey has more than 20 years experience as a civil engineer, including in street improvement, traffic studies and stormwater management. He served as the Public Works director and county engineer for Okanogan County for four years.

“I liked his personality, his demeanor, the background that he had,” Marine said. “He has worked not only in city and county government, but in the private sector as well, on both large and small projects.”

The council, however, didn’t want to take his word for it. Councilmembers voted 5-2 on May 20 to postpone McGaughey’s approval until they could meet him.

The city held a special reception on May 28 for the council to meet the final candidate.

“We’ve had issues with how well department heads communicate with the community and other agencies,” Councilmember Richard Emery said May 20. “I’d like to get a sense of who might work, for myself.”

Councilmember Kevin Stoltz echoed his concerns.

“The council should at least have a feel for this candidate before they confirm, so I definitely feel left out,” Stoltz said. “It’s a pretty big slap to the council to come forward with this without any information or ability for council to communicate with the candidate.”

Only Council President Randy Lord and Council Vice President Linda Grafer had been ready to approve McGaughey for the job sight unseen.

“I do not speak ‘public works,’” Lord said. “I am not an expert, but at that, it would have been nice to communicate with them. Whether I like them or not, I accept the judgment of the professionals.”

Though many councilmembers said it made them “uncomfortable,” Marine had followed the city’s appointment process. The mayor is only required to present one candidate to the council for review and confirmation.

As a courtesy, however, Marine had the city hold a reception for the top candidates in the searches for a new police chief and city administrator.

Several councilmembers said they would like to be more involved with the hiring process for all of the department heads.

“I apologize,” Marine said. “I certainly wasn’t trying to slight the council. I thought we had a very thorough process.”

Councilmembers Kevin Stoltz and Steve Schmalz voted against his approval due to concerns with sexual discrimination lawsuits against McGaughey and others in Okanogan County. City Administrator Joe Hannan said those lawsuits were dismissed.

“I felt really uncomfortable with the choice,” Schmalz said. “I think all of the background stuff should have been investigated more. It seemed pretty strange.”

McGaughey said his immediate goals as the Public Works director are to maintain the excellent service that the employees of the department provide, and to add value to the department and the city.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the next Public Works director for the city,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to work for such a great city as Mukilteo.

“I look forward to working with the city’s elected officials and serving the residents of Mukilteo.”

McGaughey is an engineer with Systems Consulting of Tacoma, where he oversees 75 capital projects for the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, including the design and construction of buildings, retaining walls, rail, tunnels, bridges and rolling stock.

Previously, McGaughey worked for AHBL of Tacoma as a senior project manager of civil and municipal projects in stormwater, water and sewer.

He also worked for HW Lochner Engineering as a senior project manager in charge of grant preparation, engineering teams, street and stormwater design and traffic studies.

He is also a U.S. Air Force reserve engineer officer with experience in design programming, scope of work, budgets and consultant/contractor management of more than 100 projects. He served in Afghanistan, directing day-to-day duties of engineering projects and staff.

McGaughey has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico.

The city received 15 applications for the position. Two panels interviewed seven and narrowed the candidates down to three.

The first panel was then Public Works Director Larry Waters and the Lynnwood Public Works director; the second panel was of all of the city department directors and the city administrator.

After final interviews with two candidates, Marine determined McGaughey was the most qualified.

“It’s really unfortunate that politics has to come into play,” Marine said. “They’re trying to make it look like I’ve done something wrong, that I didn’t include them.”

Emery said the council’s issue was with a matter of process, not a matter of politics.

“You’re asking us to approve a person for a position that we haven’t met,” he said May 20. “We only got information just tonight. It left me feeling the process was inadequate.

“If we’re supposed to approve someone new, we need more information, we need to be included in the process. I’m asking to make an informed decision.”

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