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Change could be coming to city’s executive department


Last updated 1/30/2019 at Noon

Mukilteo’s executive department may be getting its second major shakeup in the last 13 months, and a councilmember issued a potential challenge to the mayor for the rest of 2019.

Multiple City Councilmembers questioned whether Mukilteo needs two full-time leaders in the executive department at their Jan. 22 meeting.

In December 2017, councilmembers removed the policy analyst position, an executive position, held by state Sen. Marko Liias weeks after Councilmember Scott Whelpley’s motion to make the mayor position part-time failed.

In December, Management Services Director Steve Edin, hired in April 2017, submitted his resignation. He is now human resources manager for Marysville Fire District.

The management services director, also referred to as city administrator, runs the day-to-day operations of Mukilteo along with the mayor. They are at the direction and supervision of the mayor.

This will be the fourth management services director/city administrator under Gregerson’s administration, not including interim replacements, since she took office in 2014.

Councilmember Steve Schmalz previously asked Mayor Jennifer Gregerson about the short- and long-term plans to fill the position, and received an email two weeks ago that Finance Director Michelle Meyer would fill the position temporarily.

Schmalz had concerns about Meyer taking on that responsibility, as the city’s finance department is currently understaffed, and questioned if Meyer would handle both duties in the interim, which Gregerson said she would.

Former Police Chief Rex Caldwell served as temporary city administrator in the past, but Gregerson said it was disruptive because of the two differing roles. Since Meyer works in City Hall, it would allow her to more easily do both jobs, she said.

Meyer told the Council she asked for the responsibility herself.

“I felt that I could do it and that we had a really good team right now, and with the strong department heads we have and all the things going on, that trying to pause that right now and bring someone new into this would be even more difficult for all of us,” Meyer said.

Gregerson said finding the correct hire may take a few months, but didn’t have a timetable, which Schmalz took issue with.

“I don’t think you have a whole lot of confidence in the management services position as a functioning position anymore,” Schmalz said to Gregerson. “That’s what I’m hearing from this conversation because you’re saying that you can kind of go about it by yourself.”

Schmalz said since the Council budgeted for the position, it should be removed if it isn’t needed.

Gregerson refuted Schmalz’s claims, saying she never said the position wasn’t needed.

“I think what you (Schmalz) said mischaracterized my comments,” she said.

Schmalz said he’d talked to the city’s attorney about how to remove the position, and that he wanted an ordinance presented at the Feb. 19 meeting to eliminate the position and its funding.

The attorney at the Jan. 22 meeting wasn’t the same attorney Schmalz talked to, and told the Council they would likely need to eliminate the position before defunding it.

Whelpley said department managers told him the position was unnecessary.

“If the finance director can do the job, why do we need a (management services director)?” Whelpley asked. “Our city’s not that big … I think if the staff thinks they’re going to be able to survive and tread water, then maybe it’s time to remove that position.”

Whelpley read quotes Gregerson had said while campaigning for mayor in 2013 where she said Mukilteo didn’t need a full-time management services director since it had a full-time mayor.

“Those words were used to get elected, and that was a platform,” Whelpley said.

Whelpley said Mukilteo’s smaller population and budget does not warrant a full-time mayor and management services director who are “doing the same job,” and challenged Gregerson to back up her past claims.

“Now it’s time to get rid of the management services director, and that will allow the mayor to do what she promised the citizens she was going to do,” Whelpley said. “As soon as we learn how to do that correctly, I will make the motion to get rid of the management services director and allow the mayor before she leaves for (Snohomish) County Council to prove to the citizens and myself, people that voted for her, that she can do the job she promised.”

Gregerson announced her intention to run for County Council late last year.

Schmalz made a motion for an ordinance to be presented at the Feb. 19 meeting to eliminate the position.

Meyer said the position needed to be filled likely for a few months to recoup the cost of Edin’s paid leave.

Councilmember Bob Champion wanted to see Gregerson’s replacement plans before making any decision.

“(That) gives us the sets of information that we can then make a cognizant decision on,” he said, “otherwise I think it’s just a knee-jerk reaction, and we’re rushing again, and I’m not in favor of that.”

Gregerson said her goal was to present her plan at the Feb. 19 meeting, and that Schmalz was the one who’d requested that date.

Council President Christine Cook said Gregerson confirming Meyer for the position without presenting a timetable wasn’t as responsible as it could be, but she didn’t support Schmalz’s proposed ordinance.

The motion tied 3-3 with Councilmember Richard Emery, Cook, and Champion voting against it. Councilmember Sarah Kneller was not present.

Gregerson typically doesn’t vote to break ties, but voted against the motion since she planned to discuss the position Feb. 19.

The executive department shakeup may not end there. Cook said the Council should discuss returning to having a part-time mayor and a full-time management services director in the future. Cook said if the Council decided to pursue that, she wouldn’t want it implemented until the next mayoral term.

If Gregerson is elected to Snohomish County Council, the next mayor will be elected February 2020 to complete the final two years of Gregerson’s term.

If she is unsuccessful and remains mayor, the position’s next election would be November 2021.

Author Bio

Brandon Gustafson, Editor, Mukilteo Beacon

Brandon Gustafson was named editor of the Mukilteo Beacon in October, 2017. Born and raised in Mukilteo, Brandon attended Mukilteo Elementary, Olympic View Middle School, and Kamiak High School, graduating in 2013. After high school, Brandon attended Shoreline Community College, earning his associate's degree while playing for the school's baseball team. He then transferred to the University of Washington, where he graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in communications-journalism.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 425-347-5634
Twitter: @MukBeaconBPG


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