Mayor moves closer to hiring city administrator

September 14, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The field in the search for a city administrator has narrowed, though officials plan to remain tight-lipped about the choice until he accepts the offer.

City staffers, residents and community leaders met and scrutinized the five finalists last week, then offered recommendations to Mayor Ava Frisinger. The administrator serves as the No. 2 official in municipal government.

The finalists included Thurston County Manager Donald Krupp, San Juan County Administrator Pete Rose, Yakima Assistant City Manager David Zabell, Lake Forest Park City Administrator David Cline and Robert Harrison, the city manager in Wyoming, Ohio.

“Any one of these folks have the skills, talents and abilities to do the job,” Bellevue headhunter Greg Prothman said.

The city hired Prothman in late spring after longtime City Administrator Leon Kos retired. The recruiter sent letters to between 800 and 900 municipal officials — or, as Prothman said, every city administrator or manager in comparable-sized cities in the 11 Western states. Prothman also advertised the position online.

Prothman and Frisinger culled the stack of 50 applications to the finalists.

The men gathered at Tibbetts Creek Manor on Sept. 7 to meet city residents and officials, and to answer impromptu questions from Prothman. Frisinger released the names of the finalists the previous day, after a summerlong search.

“As much as we think we’re scouting them, they’re scouting us now, too, because the really talented manager knows that it’s a marriage,” Prothman said.

Frisinger said she hopes to hire an administrator by next month. The position requires City Council approval. The next administrator stands to earn $124,500 to $158,916 — plus benefits.

Cline, the Lake Forest Park administrator, recalled growing up near Issaquah as No. 9 of 10 children.

“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a city manager or city administrator,” he told the Tibbetts Creek Manor crowd.

Cline discussed the effort to preserve the tree canopy in Lake Forest Park, and balance commercial demands in the bedroom community.

Cline has served as the administrator in Lake Forest Park in North King County since May 2007.

Harrison, the city manager in Cincinnati suburb Wyoming, said a city administrator must remain grounded.

“You need to be humble in this business, because there are plenty of opportunities to be humbled,” he said.

Krupp, the Thurston County manager since July 2001, said he hoped to return to municipal government after service at the county and state levels.

“I’m ready to work for a city that’s got some great opportunities for doing some really wonderful things,” he said.

Since 2005, Zabell has served as deputy to Yakima City Manager Dick Zais, the longest-serving city administrator or manager in the state. Kos held the title until he retired in late April.

Zabell praised the City Council for a recent decision to preserve Tiger Mountain land amid protests from residents.

“Too much nowadays in local government, people cut and run,” he said. “To see that kind of courage and that type of commitment to doing the right thing, that says a lot about your community. I’d like to be part of that.”

Rose, a former Woodinville city manager, has served in the top San Juan County post since 2006.

“My heart is in city work,” he told the Tibbetts Creek Manor audience.

The next morning, the candidates headed into daylong interviews after meeting elected leaders, municipal department chiefs and community members.

The pressure-cooker phase for the finalists included closed-door interviews with city department chiefs and a 10-person community panel appointed by the mayor. Finalists also toured the city.

Some of the finalists in the Issaquah city administrator search also made the cut in a similar search in Oregon.

Rose and Harrison reached the final round in the ongoing Milwaukie, Ore., city manager search.

Milwaukie leaders and residents met and questioned five candidates Sept. 2-3. Prothman is in charge of the searches in the Portland suburb and Issaquah.

The practice is common for candidates to be part of the search process in multiple cities at the same time.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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