Lakewood residents will be able to hear 12 candidates make their pitch for an appointment to a vacant City Council seat later this month.
Council members decided during a Monday night study session to invite each of the candidates to make a four-minute public presentation during the Jan. 28 council meeting. The seat was vacated this week by Mayor Doug Richardson, who left to join the Pierce County Council.
In other news during a time of transition for Lakewood, the council appeared open to a recommendation by City Manager Andrew Neiditz to hire a consultant to lead the search for the third city manager in Lakewood’s history. Neiditz is leaving the city after nearly eight years to become the executive of South Sound 911, Pierce County’s new emergency dispatch agency.
The City Council candidates’ presentations could be followed by a closed-door session so council members can “evaluate the qualifications of a candidate for appointment to elective office,” which is allowed under state law. However, the law requires the council to deliberate and make a decision in public.
Candidates who can’t attend will be asked to submit a video.
Council members have said they want to make an appointment on Feb. 4 and agreed to stick to that schedule. The person appointed would fill the seat until next November, when the position is up for election.
It’s important to get someone on board as early as possible, council members agreed.
“Sooner rather than later would be my preference because we do have some issues that we need to tend to,” Councilman Jason Whalen said.
The biggest likely will be hiring the successor to Neiditz. He and South Sound 911 directors are negotiating a contract; Neiditz has said he foresees no problem reaching an agreement.
Neiditz is required under his contract with the city to give 30 days’ notice. That means the earliest he could leave Lakewood would be late February.
Neiditz recommended the council hire an outside party to help with the selection of a new city manager, given Lakewood’s large size and the complexity of issues facing it. Lakewood has nearly 60,000 residents, making it the second-largest city in Pierce County.
“It certainly has become the norm for cities our size,” he said.
Neiditz said he’s reviewing several consultants and would bring them to the council for consideration and discussion on Jan. 28.
Councilman Don Anderson said hiring a city manager is the most important decision a city council can make. He said he wants someone with experience handling budgets, military relations and economic development.
Neiditz said the city can hire a consultant in the range of $20,000 and city staff could help with the process. The city hired a consultant to land Neiditz, who succeeded Scott Rohlfs as city manager in March 2005.Christian Hill: 253-274-7390