No. 3 official at City Hall, Joe Meneghini, to retire

August 9, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Joe Meneghini

Joe Meneghini, the No. 3 official at City Hall and a behind-the-scenes force in almost every important municipal project for more than a decade, intends to retire after 11 years in the post.

Meneghini is the deputy to City Administrator Bob Harrison. The administrators and Mayor Ava Frisinger oversee all municipal departments, cross-departmental projects, communications and economic development.

Often operating far from the spotlight, Meneghini left indelible imprints on creek restoration and open space preservation efforts, programs to meld technology to city services, and prepare City Hall and residents for emergencies.

The deputy administrator also acted as a key player in the effort to create a downtown park along Issaquah Creek and to bring a Bellevue College campus to Issaquah.

“I think a key thing has been our ability to stay focused and grounded on doing all of our basic business well,” he said.

In the 11 years Meneghini served as deputy city administrator, Issaquah added area and residents to balloon to more than 30,000 people. The most recent population estimate from the state pegs Issaquah at 30,690 people — or about 170 percent more residents than a decade ago.

“You see sometimes, when organizations and businesses grow fast, there are disruptions and sometimes there are difficulties you have deal with,” he said.

But Issaquah, he added, steered through the population boom and did not experience such disruptions.

Frisinger lauded Meneghini as a mentor to other employees and a resource if staffers needed to troubleshoot problems.

“I’m part of a great team, so that’s the first part,” he said. “It’s not my accomplishments. It’s really the accomplishments of the city, the team and the great employees that we have here.”

Meneghini is due to retire Aug. 19. Frisinger announced the retirement Aug. 4.

The city does not intend to replace Meneghini immediately. Frisinger commissioned a study last month to evaluate how city departments function, and the results could determine how officials proceed regarding the deputy city administrator post. Consultant Moss Adams is due to deliver the study in October.

Meneghini’s retirement comes a little more than a year after former City Administrator Leon Kos retired after 33 years at City Hall. Frisinger hired Harrison from Wyoming, Ohio, in October after a nationwide search.

“Coming in from out of state, he’s really been an asset for me as I’ve learned about all of the state laws that may differ here in Washington,” Harrison said. “He’s also been able to provide a lot history of some of the decisions that have been made on development and planning here in the city.”

Meneghini is the latest high-profile departure from City Hall. Longtime Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock intends to retire in the fall.

Before Meneghini joined Issaquah in 2000, he served as city manager for Woodinville, finance director for Shoreline and in municipal government in California.

“When you get right down to it, I think Issaquah has a special edge to it,” he said. “It’s so much a people place with good community involvement. People really care about the community. They really care about the environment here. They care about the people and the human services.”

Meneghini, a dedicated hiker and Woodinville resident, intends to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector after he retires from Issaquah and spends some time hiking in Western Washington.

“He’s not going to be working here, but he’s not going to be just sitting around channel-surfing,” Frisinger said. “I don’t think he does things like that.”

The mayor said she hired Meneghini for broad experience in municipal government. The then-candidate also received high marks for economic development and economic vitality issues.

“The other thing that impressed me right from the very beginning during the interview was that he had a really profound grasp of issues facing the community and specifically the tensions between knowing that we were going to grow, that we were growing — that we had put in place things, such as the urban villages, which would grow out,” she said. “The tension between that knowledge that we were going to grow and that we’d be taking a leap from a small city to a medium-sized city over the course of the next 10, 15, 20 years, and how we might work through those kinds of tensions, how we might grow gracefully.”

The deputy city administrator also created the positions for the municipal communications and economic development coordinators.

Communications Coordinator Autumn Monahan said Meneghini is active and engaged as a supervisor, almost akin to the Energizer Bunny.

“He is one the most passionate people about this community that I know, and I could see that in his work every day,” she said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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