The Lakewood City Council voted Thursday night to enter into contract negotiations with Mountlake Terrace City Manager John Caulfield to become the new city manager for Pierce County’s second-largest city.
Caulfield, 48, was the last person standing after a recruitment process that drew more than 30 people nationwide and extended interview requests to six finalists. Three finalists withdrew before the interviews, the council whittled the pool down to two after the interviews, and Wednesday’s withdrawal by Deputy Pierce County Executive Kevin Phelps left only Caulfield.
Council members said Caulfield has the skill set, especially in the areas of economic development, financial acumen and military relations, to move Lakewood forward.
“He is an extremely competent person with the nuts and bolts of city government and how city government can run effectively and serve the needs of a community,” Councilman Michael Brandstetter said.
The strengths of Lakewood’s two prior city managers, Andrew Neiditz and Scott Rohlfs, are mirrored in Caulfield, said Councilwoman Helen McGovern-Pilant, who worked with both of those men.
“I’m happy with the choices we had, and I’m very confident we’ve made the right selection,” she said.
Caulfield had a scheduling conflict and wasn’t able to make Thursday’s meeting. The council spent an hour behind closed doors to discuss the start of contract negotiations.
Mayor Don Anderson said afterward that Lakewood would extend its offer with terms as early as today. He declined to discuss those terms. The advertised salary range was between $140,000 and $175,000.
Anderson said Lakewood officials also planned to visit Mountlake Terrace during the contract negotiations.
Caulfield’s current contract requires 60 days notice with the Snohomish County city, although Anderson said sometimes a city council will release a city manager earlier.
Caulfield, an ex-Army Ranger stationed at Fort Lewis in the mid-1980s, worked in University Place for nine years, rising to the position of deputy city manager, before heading north to run daily operations at Mountlake Terrace in 2006. That city is about one-third of the population of Lakewood, but there is local precedent for executives to take a big step up in size: Neiditz came to Lakewood in 2005 from Sumner, which has a population fewer than 10,000 people.
Caulfield, who would become the third city manager in Lakewood’s 17-year history, succeeds Neiditz, who left the post in February to become the head of South Sound 911, Pierce County’s new emergency dispatch agency.
City Attorney Heidi Wachter has been serving as interim city manager.