Oak Harbor seeks interim finance director and other staff changes

During last Tuesday’s scheduled meeting, Oak Harbor City Council discussed current and upcoming vacancies in various departments.

Weed Graafstra and Associates Inc. was appointed to the vacant city attorney position, but that job is expected to expire Sept. 1.

The city is narrowing the candidates for director of Development Services position that was vacated in February.

Finance Director Patricia Soule is expected to resign at the beginning of August, and Park Operations Manager Hank Nydam is expected to retire at the end of August.

With budgeting planned for the fall, much of the discussion last week centered around appointing a new interim finance director.

“Patricia did such a great job in keeping all of our finances in line,” Councilmember Erica Wasinger said.

“I just want to make sure that just in this interim that we keep that rolling.”

Human Resources Director Emma House presented four options for the council to consider.

The first option is to hire a consultant from the Municipal Research and Services Center, who would work on Tuesdays and Fridays in August.

The MRSC consultant would likely be Mike Bailey, who previously worked as finance director for the cities of Lynnwood, Renton, and Redmond.

Bailey would cost $250 an hour, plus expenses.

The second option is to hire an independent certified public accountant, who would be available full-time in August, as needed. An independent CPA would cost approximately $160 per hour, plus expenses.

The third option presented to the council is to hire someone from the firm of Moss Adams. As of Tuesday, the city was still waiting for a response from Moss Adams for a projected contract cost and availability.

The fourth option is to appoint an internal employee to the interim assignment.

Wasinger said she supports the first two options.

Councilmember Joel Servatius initially said he was concerned about having a two-day work week with the first option.

“If it’s somebody that’s very qualified, then two days might get it done,” Servatius said.

“But that to me is concerning because we should be knee-deep in budget season at that point,” Servatius said.

Councilmember Jeff Mack said he shares Servatius’ concerns and said he would support the second option.

“I would prefer that the city go with an independent, highly qualified trained CPA that is still experienced in municipality,” Mack said.

Councilmember Jim Woessner said he was unsure if someone hired externally would be able to quickly catch up on how the city conducts its finances.

“Anybody we bring in part-time is not going to be doing Patricia’s job,” Woessner said.

“What I assume they’re going to be doing is following behind some staff members who are going to be picking up the slack,” he said.

Woessner added there were individuals in the department who are talented and knowledgeable with the day-to-day operations of the city. He recommended that the council speak with the department members first to see what areas in which they would need assistance and oversight.

Mayor pro-tem Beth Munns said she disagreed with Woessner. She praised Bailey’s background and skill as finance consultant.

“Whether he gives you one day, two days or five days, he would not commitment unless he knew he could do it and make a difference,” Munns said. “He will not need any warm-up. He just needs to learn people’s names and who’s doing what, especially with the budget season.”

Upon learning who the MRSC consultant would be, Servatius said that he would support option one, but that he would still like the interim position to be advertised far and wide.

Councilmember Tara Hizon noted that, because the position is an interim appointment, Mayor Bob Severns has the final say as to who will be hired.

“So, the mayor will appoint who he’s going to appoint in the interim,” Hizon said. “But then when it comes to actually hiring a full-time person, that’s when we will have an opportunity to review and approve a final hire.”

Hizon said she was appreciative that the mayor was giving council an opportunity to weigh-in on the matter.

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