The Tumwater City Council voted 6-1 to confirm the appointment of Lisa Parks as the next city administrator on Tuesday, May 9.
Parks is currently the executive services director at the Port of Olympia, where she has worked since July 2021. Before her time at the Port, she was a planner both for public and private practice and was the executive director of the Port of Douglas County in Wenatchee, Washington for nine years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning, which she earned from Eastern Washington University.
Councilmember Leatta Dahlhoff was the lone dissenter of Parks’ appointment, saying that she was voting “no” out of respect for union members who have given her feedback about Parks’ appointment.
The Port of Olympia is currently struggling to sign a contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 47B, which represents Port employees at the marina, fuel dock, and boatyard. Negotiations for the contract started in July 2022, but have reached an impasse, with the Public Employment Relations Commission now acting as a mediator following the Port’s request.
“I acknowledge my bias with the community members who have reached out to me. I also want to acknowledge my bias as a current union member in my employment, and the bias that I have of my family being involved and engaged with union work for generations,” Dahlhoff said.
“With respect to our community and respect to our staff, and respect to our union members… I'm going to respectfully vote no.”
Councilmember Michael Althauser, who was the only other councilmember to speak about Parks’ appointment, explained that he voted yes as he ultimately found Parks to be qualified.
“I've spent a lot of time thinking about this decision and the vote and about our role as a council in this process. And it's not a decision that I take lightly or I think that anyone on this council takes lightly,” Althauser said.
Althauser also spoke about the council’s role in the hiring process, as they are limited to confirming the mayor’s appointment. He said that he was voting not based on whether he preferred another candidate, but on whether Parks was qualified.
The city council also authorized Mayor Debbie Sullivan to sign Parks’ employment contract, which sets her starting salary at $169,788. The initial terms of the contract would be for three years, after which the contract can be renegotiated. Should Tumwater terminate Parks’ contract as a matter of the city’s right and without cause, Parks would receive a lump sum of six months’ pay.
Parks would assume her new position on June 16, replacing John Doan, who is set to retire after serving the post for 13 years.
Port Commissioner Amy Evans Harding told The JOLT that Parks has been important to many of the Port’s initiatives but noted that Parks is the sixth senior manager at the Port to have turned over in the last three years.
“Our Strategic Plan clearly recognizes recruiting, retaining, and supporting our team is critical to success. Six out of our seven senior managers have turned over in the last three years. I am hopeful we continue to take steps to make the Port a better place to work and a trusted community asset,” Evans Harding said.
The Port’s HR and communications team confirmed that before Parks, there have been six senior managers and directors who had left the Port since 2020, but noted that the pandemic affected many employers and local governments.
“It feels important to also remember that the years of the pandemic were marked by considerable movement of jobs and professionals. All employers and local governments saw increased turnover and many, including the Port, eliminated positions over time,” the port commissioner wrote to The JOLT.
Senior managers and directors who left the Port since 2020 include:
● Rachael Jamison, Planning, Public Works, and Environmental Director
● Len Faucher, Marine Terminal Director
● Jeri Sevier, Administrative Services Director
● Jennie Foglia-Jones, Communications, Marketing, and Governmental Affairs Senior Manager
● Aletia Alvarez, Capital Assets Senior Manager
● Allyn Roe, Business Development and Real Estate Director
Port Executive Services Director Sam Gibboney congratulated Parks’ appointment at a Port Commission meeting on Monday, May 8. Gibboney commended Parks for her contributions, such as how she led the Budd Inlet cleanup project, secured $20 million worth of grants and state budget appropriations, and brought in a process for managing capital assets.
“It has been a tremendous honor to work alongside you,” Gibboney said to Parks. “Our working relationship with Tumwater has always been very positive and we look for that to continue.”
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With one exception, the council made a reasoned decision in the best interest of the City. Putting extraneous personal beliefs ahead of prudent judgement is a failure of a council members fiduciary duty to its citizens,
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