News

Myers becomes city employee

The guy with the big office at Oak Harbor City Hall recently became a real city employee.

Oak Harbor city council members unanimously approved a three-year, $95,820 a year contract with City Administrator Thom Myers Tuesday. The councilors were apparently so pleased with Myers that they rushed to “second” the motion to hire him and then giggled about it afterward.

Mayor Patty Cohen appointed Myers as the city’s administrative head last March after going through a long period without anyone in the position, though Financial Director Doug Merriman had been filling the dual role of administrator and finance chief.

After an extensive search and interview process left Cohen without an administrator candidate she was pleased with, she hired Myers through the Seattle-based head-hunting firm, Waldron and Associates. The city had been paying $59 an hour for Myers’ service, though a percentage of that went to Waldron.

Since Cohen and the council decided to hire Myers permanently, the city will have to pay Waldron a one-time finder’s fee of $9,528. Myers will now be making a salary of $95,820 a year, plus he’ll get about $23,900 worth of benefits as a city employee, Finance Director Doug Merriman said.

Myers was the former Arlington administrator and was the interim administrator for the city of Monroe when he was hired. He was the city administrator of Lake Stevens from 1984 to ‘86. He was a principal planner for an Edmonds consulting firm and a senior planner for a Oregon council of governments before that. Myers has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington.

Cohen said she and council members are pleased to hire Myers and bring more stability to the city. Cohen, who negotiated the contract with Myers, said she contacted five other cities and found that his salary was in-line with the similar-sized cities.

But the fact that Oak Harbor has both a paid mayor — around $35,000 a year — and a city administrator isn’t lost on Councilman Paul Brewer. He points out that Oak Harbor likely pays much more for administration than other cities because it is one of the few “strong mayor” forms of government that also has a city administrator. Then again, having an elected mayor in City Hall all the time arguably makes the city more responsive to the community.

While Brewer thinks Myers fills a needed position, he said the city doesn’t need a paid mayor anymore. In the council form of government, the administrator works for the council and the mayor is a council member.

“Having a strong mayor and a city manager both is not right,” he said after the council meeting. “We don’t need both. It’s pretty expensive.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-1166.

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