Congratulations to Elizabeth Pauli, Tacoma’s new city manager. That she garnered unanimous support from City Council members Tuesday, just days after they’d pinned their hopes to a quartet of outside candidates with broader résumés, speaks well of the confidence she’s inspired in two decades at City Hall.
Pauli has worked hard on behalf of Tacoma’s interests and values since 1998, first as chief assistant city attorney, then as city attorney for 12 years before vaulting into the interim city manager role early this year. Her ascension as the first female CEO in Tacoma’s era of council-manager government shows how far we’ve come, and how regrettably long it took to get there (65 years).
If history could wait that long, however, is there a good reason why elected leaders had to rush Pauli through the selection process in a couple of days? Can anyone explain why they didn’t put her through the de rigueur public meet-and-greet sessions, or make time for community input as they did with the other candidates? And why Tuesday’s appointment did not appear on a published council agenda?
Tacomans were denied a chance to provide pushback or buy-in to this most important hire. A chance to quiz a city employee who’s worked largely behind the scenes, sometimes on controversial legal matters. A chance, perhaps, to ask about her change of heart after she’d previously said she didn’t want the job.
We’re pleased to know Pauli earned her undergraduate and law degrees at University of Wisconsin-Madison, that she enjoys tandem bicycling with her husband, and that she volunteers at her church. But residents shouldn’t be limited to a few vanilla biographical facts handpicked for Pauli’s executive profile on the city website.
Pauli may grow into an exemplary city manager. We hope she does. But the way the council went about this has the cavalier feel of a backstage coronation.