Spokane Valley Finance Director Ken Thompson will become the fourth department head to leave the city in a little over a year when he retires in June.
Thompson, 64, has worked for the city since incorporation in 2003. Former City Manager Dave Mercier was asked to resign by the city council in January 2010, City Attorney Mike Connelly resigned in August to go into private practice and Planning Manager Greg McCormick resigned in September to take a position in Kennewick.
The city has vacant positions it needs to fill in the wake of those departures. Scott Kuhta, senior planner, was promoted to replace McCormick and Deputy City Manager Mike Jackson was hired as the new city manager in August. But Jackson’s old position is still unfilled and it will likely remain that way. “I’m not intending to fill the deputy city manager position in 2011,” he said. “I’ll be looking at that again in 2012.”
The city will soon advertise for a new city attorney and a new finance director. “I’m planning to have a new finance director in place before Ken leaves and possibly a week or so of overlap,” Jackson said. “It will take some time to come up to speed.”
A finance director is crucial and leaving the position vacant for several months like Spokane Valley has done with the city attorney position is not an option, he said. Acting City Attorney Cary Driskell has filled in for Connelly but something like that isn’t an option for Thompson’s position, Jackson said. “In the finance department we really don’t have that second in command. Ken has a fairly small staff for a city of our size.”
Jackson said the city hopes to hire a new city attorney by the end of June. “Hopefully, Cary will be a candidate for the city attorney position,” he said. If Driskell does apply and gets the job, a new deputy city attorney will be hired. “We’ve determined that we need both of those positions,” Jackson said. “The workload in the office demands two city attorneys.”
Thompson said that four department heads in a year is a high number of departures, but he isn’t leaving because of a dispute. “When you’re in the business I’m in, things can change in a hurry,” he said. Thompson said of the city council, “I get along with all of them just fine.”
Jackson also said he doesn’t think anyone is leaving because of the new direction of the city. “You don’t really know what people think about when they make a career decision like that,” he said. “That certainly has not been communicated to me. I don’t think you can read that into anything that’s happening here, myself.”
Thompson said he and his wife would like to travel and he has a long list of projects to work on at home. He has also been informed that he will be in charge of picking up his oldest grandson at the bus stop when he starts kindergarten in the fall.
“The house needs to be painted,” he said. “That garden needs to be worked on. And that garage I was supposed to clean out for the last six years, that’s on the list too.”
Before arriving in Spokane Valley Thompson worked as the deputy city manager in Albany, Ore., for four years and worked for the city of Coeur d’Alene for 16 years. He was the city administrator for half of his tenure there and the finance director for the other half. “I’ve been working for 41 years or something like that,” he said of his decision to retire. “Besides, you get tired when you get to be in your 60s.”
Jackson said he will be sorry to see Thompson go. “He has done just an outstanding job for the city,” he said. “He’s leaving us in a sound financial position with the books in order and a good, solid staff behind him. He’s leaving on a high note.”