New mayor to restructure the city's management

By Sara Bruestle | Jan 08, 2014

Although Mayor Jennifer Gregerson was sworn in on Jan. 6, she’s been making her transition into the mayor’s office for weeks.

Gregerson formed a Transition Committee after she was elected to assist her in shaping the new administration.

So far, the committee has helped Gregerson establish her first priorities as mayor. These include:

• Suspending the city’s Pavement Preservation Program and finding cost-effective alternatives to chip seal that work well and look good;

• Developing a budgeting process that is “zero-based,” meaning every city expense is re-examined with each new budget;

• Allowing pedestrian access as soon as possible to Edgewater Park, a 2-acre beach park on the Everett end of the Tank Farm, and vehicle access by next year;

• Negotiating with the city of Everett to de-annex the newly-purchased 97 acres of Japanese Gulch into Mukilteo;

• Forming a Green Team with city staff from every department to help make Mukilteo a better steward of the environment; and

• Establishing a Rosehill Community Board, a subcommittee of the Parks and Arts Commission, to give feedback to the Recreational and Cultural Services director on the programs and services provided through the community center.

In addition, the mayor said the committee would advise her on a planned restructuring of the city's upper management, intergovernmental relations and general leadership.

She campaigned to eliminate the city administrator position, saying that the full-time job – which pays $117,000 a year – is not necessary in a city of 20,000 with a full-time mayor. The mayor's position pays $70,800 a year.

“It feels like there’s two chief executives, and so we’re working toward a different staff structure up here,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t be giving herself a pay raise.

“I signed up for this job at this salary, and that’s my expectation.”

After the election, Gregerson met with Joe Hannan, who held the administrator job for six years. She let him know that he wouldn’t be retained after the start of her term in January.

“I felt like I could be more productive if I made a clean break and stepped forward and was able to lead from my perspective,” she said. “His skill set and expertise doesn’t fit my vision of the exec department here, but I think he could fit in really well at another city.”

Hannan could not be reached for comment Monday before Beacon deadline.

In the interim, Gregerson has appointed Police Chief Rex Caldwell as the temporary city administrator. He will continue to be paid his $109,400 salary as chief.

“I was looking for someone to help out over the next handful of months, until council approves our longterm plan for how we want to provide service up here,” she said. “Rex is a respected manager and leader.”

Cmdr. Chuck Macklin, who is second-in-command in the police department, will serve as acting chief in the estimated six months Caldwell will be the administrator. He will receive the chief’s salary during that time.

“Chuck is definitely qualified,” Gregerson said. “He served as acting chief when our former Police Chief Murphy was out because of an injury. He also has filled in for Rex when he is out of town.”

Her Transition Committee is composed of Marci Larsen, superintendent of the Mukilteo School District; state Rep. Marko Liias; Heather McCartney, the city’s recently retired director of planning and community development; and Brian Sullivan, a member of the Snohomish County Council.

Gregerson said the committee has yet to come up with a plan for her second-in-command, but that the roles of both that position and the mayor will change.

She said the positions would likely resemble the city of Edmonds’ makeup, which has a mayor and a community and economic development director.

As mayor, she’d like to become more involved in the day-to-day operations of the city, and give her second-in-command the charge of project-specific management and some intergovernmental relations.

She also campaigned to add a human resources manager to the administration, which she said she’ll do without increasing upper management salaries’ bottom line and maybe even at a savings.

“It’s a big job, and I think it’s a really big need for the city,” Gregerson said. “There’s been a hole there. Taking care of our employees is important. We want to do it right.”

Historically, human resources work had been managed by the city administrator and carried out by the executive assistant. The 2014 budget proposed by former Mayor Joe Marine contracts out human resources services for $40,000.

Although she sees that as a step in the right direction, Gregerson wants to hire a manager with the right background and training to do the job.

Gregerson didn’t bring her choice of interim administrator before the City Council, however, she will be required to involve councilmembers in the hiring of her new second-in-command.

Councilmember Steve Schmalz said he was notified in an email of her decision to make Rex Caldwell the temporary city administrator.

“I thought it was surprising, but I understand her reasoning behind it,” Schmalz said. “I like Rex.

“With Joe Hannan leaving, she needed to bring in someone with experience working with a large department, and I believe the police chief has the experience to do that.”

Former Councilmember Kevin Stoltz was equally surprised and pleased to see Caldwell in the new role.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “Rex has always been really easy to work with. He’s very experienced, and I think he’ll bring what’s needed in the transition.”

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