After a lengthy executive session on Monday to evaluate the qualifications and skills of deputy city manager Mike Jackson, the Spokane Valley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Jackson acting city manager until someone can be hired to fill the position permanently. Council member Bob McCaslin was absent.
The resolution allows Mayor Tom Towey to negotiate a letter of agreement with Jackson that will outline his salary and other benefits. The letter is expected to be brought to the council for its approval at Tuesday’s meeting.
Jackson was hired as the city’s parks and recreation director in 2003 before moving into the deputy city manager slot two years ago. During that time he regularly filled in for City Manager Dave Mercier when Mercier was absent, much as he has been for the last month after the council requested Mercier’s resignation.
“I am happy that Mike Jackson was willing to step up,” said council member Rose Dempsey. “He has been doing an excellent job. I think we’re very fortunate to have him.”
Council member Gary Schimmels said he was pleased by Jackson’s background. “He’s well qualified,” he said. “He has a very good résumé.”
The council also discussed the procedure to replace Mercier permanently. Their options are to name Jackson the permanent city manager and hire a new deputy city manager, conduct a search for a new manager using city staff or hire a search firm to find a new manager.
Council member Brenda Grassel noted that she has already received two résumés from people interested in the position, and asked if the city could do a search on its own and then switch to hiring a search firm if not enough qualified candidates are found. City attorney Mike Connelly said it was an option, but if the city conducts its own search it must first set out a detailed process to follow.
“I would like to see just a local search,” said council member Dean Grafos. “That would probably be the place to start.”
Council member Bill Gothmann said the council needed to sit down and discuss what attributes and qualifications they are looking for before a search begins.
The consensus was to have city staff do the search, which would require the city council to be heavily involved in the process by reading résumés and interviewing candidates. Gothmann noted that the pool of candidates could include Jackson “if he is interested.”
In other business, the council decided to suspend negotiations for a 5-acre parcel of land at University City that was intended to be the location of a new city hall. The new building is called for in the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, which the new council intends to re-evaluate.
Until SARP is dealt with “it would be unfair to continue negotiations,” Gothmann said. He noted that the city could buy the land and use it as a park or farmers’ market for a few years.