The Tacoma City Council on Tuesday appointed two new directors to head high-profile city departments, with combined annual salaries topping $490,000.
Jackie Flowers was confirmed to be the new director of Tacoma Public Utilities, with an annual salary of $330,158.40. She was among three finalists for the job who came to Tacoma to participate in a public panel, interviews and a community meet-and-greet and was chosen by the public utility board last month.
The council also voted to appoint Jeff Robinson as director of the Community and Economic Development Department.
Flowers, the general manager of Idaho Falls Power for the last 12 years, is the first woman to be permanently appointed to the job of TPU director (interim director Linda McCrea was the first woman to serve in that role).
"We had some great candidates and they all love Tacoma, but we are going to be asking you to please vote to confirm the Idaho Woman of the Year and bring her to Tacoma," said outgoing utility board chairwoman Monique Trudnowski, who was at the forefront of the search process for a new director.
That process took about eight months, Trudnowski said.
"We have a lot of work to do, but she is ready to get her sleeves rolled up," Trudnowski added.
Councilman Justin Camarata praised Flowers before the vote, saying he was impressed by her ability to "bring so many seemingly divergent coalitions of people together and bring them all under one roof."
Flowers is expected to start Aug. 1. Her contract includes a provision that allowed her predecessor, former director Bill Gaines, to walk away with a severance package totaling more than $400,000 when he retired last year.
Gaines, who had become controversial among utility board and council members, left the job after the City Council did not take up a vote to reconfirm him and after the utility board repealed its vote to appoint him for another two years.
According to Flower's offer letter: "If you are terminated involuntarily, asked to resign, or otherwise end employment at the request of the board, or your appointment is not reconfirmed by the City Council, you will be provided with 12 months' severance pay at your then-current rate of pay."
But: "...should your termination be the result of gross negligence, intentional acts which are not in the best interests of the city or interfere with your ability to perform the duties of the position, acceptance of another position while still employed with the city, or conviction of a gross misdemeanor or felony offense then no severance payment will be granted."
Flowers must live in Tacoma while serving as director, according to her offer letter. She is starting at an annual salary about $57,000 less than what Gaines was paid annually when he left.
New economic development director Robinson, who already lives in Tacoma, has served as the economic development director for the city of SeaTac for the last 10 years.
Before that, he served as community and economic development director for the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association, vice president of Mercy Housing Corporation, community development vice president for U.S. Bank in Seattle, and housing trust fund manager for the state of Washington, according to a city news release.
Robinson will start working for the city July 9. His starting salary of $161,491 is roughly $7,000 lower than his predecessor was paid in his final year.
Robinson replaces former economic development director Ricardo Noguera, who was fired in December after an investigation found he “created an environment that has left his female staff feeling demeaned, demoralized and unwelcomed.”
In April, the City Council voted to pay $174,000 to settle a claim he filed against the city after he was removed from his post.