The three finalists for the top administrative position at Mountlake Terrace City Hall mingled with attendees at a City open house on Friday, Jan. 24, in advance of a day-long interview process they will face on Saturday. City councilmembers will meet individually, then collectively, with each finalist before possibly making a decision on which, if any, of the finalists will be offered the job of Mountlake Terrace City Manager late Saturday afternoon.
Arlene Fisher, current City Administator for the City of Cheney; Phil Messina, former City Manager of Ridgefield, Wash. and Central Point, Ore.; and Subir Mukerjee, City Administrator for the City of Milton introduced themselves, mixed with residents and city officials, and answered questions concerning their backgrounds, experience and vision for the city.
In addressing the open house, Fisher spoke of her years of public service with the City of Cheney, and beforehand her involvement with the establishment of Liberty Lake,a small city east of Spokane.
Fisher spoke positively about the City of Mountlake Terrace’s website and of the city’s efforts to improve its standing in the minds of people throughout the region. She described how, through the efforts of Cheney city staff and a $3,000 annual budget, they have been able to help lift the regional image of the college town through marketing advertisements in airports, business journals and other print publications.
“That’s how we brought Cheney to the forefront,” she stated.
Messina told the open house attendees that being in Mountlake Terrace for the interview process is a homecoming for him. His family moved to the city in 1957 and he graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in the 1960s.
Following 10 years as the City Manager of Central Point, Ore., Messina took a similar post at Ridgefield in late 2012, but only stayed there 12 months. “I had some concerns about what was going on there and decided to part company,” he told the open house.
Mukerjee spoke of his experience in serving at both Milton, a city of less than 7,000, and Olympia, with a population of close to 50,000. “I’ve been in a small town and a large town; I don’t know what is harder,” he joked.
As City Manager of Milton, Mukeriee has had to deal with a U.S. Department of Justice push to get the city to upgrade a park public bathroom and the residual illnfeelings of a contentious mayoral election there. In both cases, Mukerjee said the key is finding solutions that are practical. “When you are a city administrator, you’ve got to be pragmatic,” he stressed. “And don’t sweat the little stuff.”
The three finalists met with city staffers earlier on Friday before the 90-minute open house with the public. The individual meetings with city councilmembers are scheduled to take place Saturday morning, then the council will convene at 2:15 p.m. but go directly into Executive Session to meet with the finalists. The council is expect to re-convene into public session at approximately 5:30 p.m. when an announcement of which one of the three finalists, if anyone of them, will be offered the City Manager job.
— Story by Doug Petrowski