Residents question 3 finalists for Lakewood city manager; hiring decision could be as soon as Tuesday

Staff writerJune 17, 2013 

The search for Lakewood’s new city manager enters the homestretch Tuesday with interviews of the three remaining finalists.

The City Council named six finalists earlier this month but half the pool has dropped out. W. Scott Larese, the former garrison commander at Fort Rucker, Ala., exited Monday after informing Lakewood he decided to focus on his current job, city spokesman Jeff Brewster said.

The city lost two other finalists on Friday as Burien city manager Michael Martin and James Bourey, former city manager of Greenville, S.C., accepted jobs elsewhere.

Mayor Don Anderson said he isn’t concerned about being left with fewer options. “The pool is deep and all six were good candidates,” he said.

The remaining finalists are Mountlake Terrace City Manager John Caulfield; Matthew Fulton, former city manager in Coon Rapids, Minn.; and Deputy Pierce County Executive Kevin Phelps.

The trio attended a public reception Monday night at Clover Park Technical College, where residents questioned them on a range of topics including education, the city’s relationship with Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the proposed rerouting of Amtrak passenger trains through the city. About 50 people attended.

Caulfield, a former University Place deputy city manager, recalled the hospitality he was shown in Lakewood when he was stationed with the Ranger battalion at Fort Lewis in the mid-1980s. He said it was a reason he stayed in Washington State and recently applied for the city manager job.

Fulton noted his work in economic development, including when he was city manager in New Brighton, Minn., and assembled 100 acres of property to land a medical device manufacturer. He learned of the Lakewood job from former city manager Andrew Neiditz; the two men sit on the board of the International City/County Management Association.

Phelps, who lives in Lakewood, highlighted his 30 years of business experience and stints as a Tacoma city councilman and deputy state auditor.

Four panels -- two made up of community members, one of City Council members and one of city staff -- will interview the finalists from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday. The community panel interviews are open to the public.

Whether the council interviews will be open is still “up in the air,” Anderson said Monday evening. All the meetings will be held at City Hall.

Prior to the interviews, hiring consultant Greg Prothman will meet with the City Council at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday to go over the day’s schedule and make any necessary adjustments.

The interview panel members will hold a debriefing from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the council is scheduled to meet in a closed, or executive, session to discuss the finalists’ qualifications afterward.

Brewster said the council could decide to hold an evening meeting for another interview with finalists, but that still needs to be decided.

A hiring decision could come as early as Tuesday.

Christian Hill: 253-597-7390

christian.hill@ thenewstribune.com

@TNTchill

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