New mayor plans changes at city hall
June 25, 2008 · Updated 10:15 AM
Administrator will lose job
LANGLEY Langleys next mayor Paul Samuelson will restructure city hall when he takes office in January.
And one of his first changes will cost current City Administrator Walt Blackford his job.
Samuelson said his management style doesnt call for a full-time city administrator.
Ill spend a lot more time in the office, Samuelson said.
I dont see the need for a city administrator in my administration, he added.
Instead, Samuelson is thinking about hiring a part-time administrative assistant.
Its customary for a new administration to reassess the needs, Samuelson said. Ill be a different mayor than Neil (Colburn).
Blackford was disappointed.
I understand that the mayor-elect has the right to choose his own staff. Nonetheless, his decision to eliminate the city administrator position was unexpected and came as a surprise to me, Blackford said.
I am disappointed to lose a job that I love. And I am disappointed to lose the opportunity to be of service to my community, he added.
Blackford was hired as city administrator in February 2004. He has been a driving force behind resolving controversies such as the battle over Fairgrounds Road or the transfer of the city marina to the Port of South Whidbey.
Samuelson said the change in personnel is unrelated to Blackfords performance.
I have no problems at all with Walt, he said. I respect him and he has done an excellent job at city hall.
However, the current mayor said eliminating the city administrator position without a adequate transitional period will make Samuelsons job tougher.
I urged Paul in strong language not to do it, Colburn said. I strongly disagree with his decision.
Colburn added that Blackfords institutional memory and knowledge on specific projects wont be easy to replace.
Walt has been invaluable for me, Colburn said. Hes kind of the quarterback and I was the coach. Hes always there.
Colburn said the details of Blackfords release are still up in the air. Samuelson doesnt have any executive power until he takes office Jan. 1. Colburn said, Blackford is a city employee, not a contractor, and has the same employment protection as all city employees.
Samuelson said the reason he is talking about personnel changes at city hall now, before he officially becomes mayor, is to give Blackford time to adjust and find a new job.
Blackford said he will still help Samuelson and other workers at city hall until he finds a new job.
Until I have secured other work, I am willing to share my knowledge and experience as a consultant if this will help provide a smooth transition for the new administration, Blackford said.
Blackford thanked Colburn for his trust and the community for its support.
Of course, I also am grateful to Mayor Colburn for giving me the chance to serve the city and to make many new friends in the process, Blackford said.
Last year, Samuelson, in his capacity as councilman, voted for a pay increase for both the mayors position and the city administrators position. The council unanimously approved the pay raises and said it was needed to attract quality people to the job.
The mayors pay was raised from $14,400 to $21,000, a 45-percent increase.
The city administrators pay went up from $43,000 to $48,000 a year.
Cutting the position of city administrator and hiring an administrative assistant instead will not have a adverse impact on the citys budget, Samuelson said.
If at all, it will save money, he said.
Blackford was hired initially to work approximately 20 hours a week, and first made about $500 a week up to a maximum of $20,500 annually. But the position grew over the years.
Blackford took over the job from Lynn Hicks in 2004, who served as the citys administrator and attorney.
Former Mayor Lloyd Furman hired Hicks as city administrator in 2002. She and her predecessor, Eric Lucas, had worked in a combined attorney and administrator position.
When Colburn became mayor he decided to separate the positions and chose Blackford as his city administrator.