The City of Aberdeen has spent months trying to fill vacancies for the position of finance director and city administrator, a newly added position, but there are no signs of replacements anytime soon.
According to Mayor Erik Larson, the city has had issues hiring for both positions because Aberdeen’s salaries for the positions are not competitive compared to the market average. This has led to some candidates taking jobs in other cities that pay more, Larson has said.
The city administrator vacancy hasn’t been a major issue since it’s a new position, Larson said, but he added that it’s been challenging not having a full-time finance director.
“It isn’t ideal obviously, but the city administrator position is new, so it hasn’t changed anything for the position to remain vacant,” said Larson. “The finance director position remaining open has been difficult, but we have managed to keep things running with some additional support.”
Since the departure of previous Finance Director Mike Folkers in April, Larson has carried out some of the duties that the finance director normally does. The city also made an inter-local agreement with Hoquiam’s Finance Director Corri Schmid over the summer, and the city has paid her to handle some of the finance director tasks.
Larson has worked with Schmid, as well as Aberdeen’s finance accountant Tawny Olsen to split up the finance director tasks, he said. At a recent Aberdeen City Council meeting, there was a motion to promote Olsen to the role of assistant finance director, but it was denied by council members.
Near the beginning of 2018, the city hired a headhunting firm to assist in finding candidates for city administrator. After months of searching, the city had gone through a group of city administrator candidates, but Larson said the general takeaway was that the salary was not high enough to attract someone with the qualifications the city is looking for.
The city allocated nine months of pay ($82,000 including benefits) for the city administrator position in the 2018 budget, which means for budget purposes, the vacancy wasn’t expected to be filled during the first quarter of the year. That money will not be used if the city doesn’t hire a city administrator before the end of the year.
For 2019, a full year having a city administrator would represent an estimated $148,000 in salary and benefits, Larson said.
At the council meeting on Sept. 28, the city’s personnel committee recommended raising pay for eight city staff positions, including department heads and the city administrator, but only the finance director’s was approved, raising the annual starting salary from $90,999 to $95,412.
As Aberdeen city officials begin considering the 2019 budget, Larson told The Daily World he hopes the city can incorporate the raise for a city administrator that failed to pass in September so the city can hopefully hire someone in early 2019.
Among the city council members, there haven’t been many concerns raised at meetings about the two vacancies. Council member Kathi Prieto said she’s not concerned about the issue, and said it’s important for the city to take its time to find a qualified candidate. However, Prieto said she hopes the city finds people to fill those positions by the end of 2018.ww