The Aberdeen City Council has approved funding to hire a city administrator. It’s one of the main additions in the 2018 budget passed by the council at Wednesday’s hearing.
Council President Tawni Andrews said that although it’s a pricey addition, having a city administrator will ultimately pay off in improved productivity and communication.
“Yes, it’s a big expense, but in the long run it’s going to help us,” said Andrews. “We’ll be able to go after those grants, and have things funneled through one person, rather than through all these different departments.
[The departments] work wonderful together, but I think having that head person will just tie it all together. That’s a continuity that our city doesn’t have. Every four years our mayor changes, but the city administrator maintains defined roles over each mayor.”
The base salary for the city administrator is estimated to be $120,000 for the first year. With added benefits, travel costs, and office equipment like a computer and desk, Finance Director Mike Folkers said the total cost for the first year would be closer to $200,000.
Folkers said it’s very rare for cities Aberdeen’s size to not have either a full time mayor or city administrator, and that of the 110 most populated cities in Washington, Aberdeen is the only one that lacks either since Mayor Erik Larson is part time.
Local resident Darren King was the only audience member who voiced his opinion at the hearing on the budget, saying the hire will be helpful to ensure projects aren’t left unfinished.
“The council and the mayor set the goals for our city, and the way we get to those goals has to be overseen by somebody,” said King. “Sometimes, by [having council] trying to do that, things might get on the back burner, and we can lose momentum getting things done. This would help you do your job better, fill in gaps if department heads have things that cross over. I think a good city administrator will more than pay for itself.”
Council member Margo Shortt spoke up against the position. She feels the job description is still unclear, and doesn’t believe it is something city residents want, overall.
“I still feel that we do not know enough about the description of what the city administrator is going to do,” said Shortt at Wednesday’s hearing. “This is a large amount of money to be spending every year, and so far I haven’t run into a citizen who is really in favor of this position. They see it as something superfluous for the city. We’re the legislative body, the money-spending body, and we need to be good stewards of the tax money that citizens give us.”
Shortt introduced an amendment to the budget to remove the city administrator position. It failed, with only Shortt and Peter Schave voting in favor of the change.
Folkers said they will reach out to recruitment firms in January and that they hope to hire someone as soon as possible.