Some officials not happy with city manager search process

Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore
Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore

After a closed door meeting last week with the executive search firm leading the effort to find a new city manager for Mountlake Terrace, there’s a growing sense of dissatisfaction among some Mountlake Terrace City Councilmembers and other city officials concerning the current state of the search.

Colin Baenziger, of Colin Baenziger & Associates, reported to the city council on Dec. 12 that 50 individuals have applied for the top post at Mountlake Terrace City Hall. Following the public report, Baenziger and the city council meet in executive session to discuss the pool of applicants.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Jerry Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore both expressed displeasure with how the City Manager search is proceeding.

“My new business would be my disappointment with the selection of how the city manager is going at this point. I just want to put it out there and let you know that I have some concerns and some discontent on that,” Sonmore told the rest of the city council on Monday. “I think I’m going to echo the same thing,” Smith responded. “I wasn’t impressed at all.”

The two councilmembers aren’t alone in their assessments as Interim City Manager Scott Hugill reported that he, too, was disappointed with the initial application results. “I’ve started reaching out to some of the city manager network in Washington to see about deepening the number of people who applied,” he said. “We did get 50 applicants, however their depth of experience in the field wasn’t what I was hoping to see.”

Colin Baenziger
Colin Baenziger

The City of Mountlake Terrace is paying Colin Baenziger & Associates a set fee of $23,000 to recruit applicants for the vacant city post, conduct background checks on the applicants, and to facilitate the interview process of position finalists. While Baenziger is hoping that the council will be in a position to select a new City Manager by the end of January 2014, the contract is open-ended. “They keep going until they find you a city manager,” Hugill told the council.

For Sonmore, keeping Colin Baenziger & Associates on the hunt for an acceptable candidate may not be good enough, as she was frustrated with not only the applicant pool, but with the firm’s tone in reporting to the city. “I’m at the point where I’d like to send a strong enough message, if this does not improve, I would move to – and I would make that motion – move to terminate that contract, to pay that off, and do something else,” Sonmore asserted. “I was that disappointed in how the process was delivered to us.”

Sonmore hinted that Colin Baenziger & Associates didn’t show the esteem for the City of Mountlake Terrace that it should have in the early stages of the search. “The country bumpkin – that’s how I felt we were treated,” she said.

“Here’s another company coming from different state – we’ve put our faith in them, and I expected more,” Sonmore added.

Colin Baenziger & Associates is based out of Florida, but has done a number of city manager searches in Washington state. Baenziger is scheduled to begin delivering reports on some of the top applicants to Mountlake Terrace City Council members on Jan. 8.

— By Doug Petrowski


  1. Perhaps the council should be more specific concerning what the profile/qualifications of the ideal applicant should be.  Then, they might inquire if the recruiting firm understands why that type of applicant hasn’t so far applied.    Is the  lack of suitable applicants a result of the recruiting firm’s shortcomings or is it somehow a function of the job itself?  Finally, if this recruitng firm is the problem, does that mean we can hold accountable the people who chose them.

  2. When I told the Council that I believe there are racist hiring practices occuring within the Mountlake Terrace Police Department (4.9% minority,civilian employees and officers combined; 0% in Police Command), they couldn’t have cared less. Ms. Sonmore, in particular, was wholly uninterested.

  3. @len french I voted for you, Mr. French. It mght have been too late for you to stop this monstrosity going up here at 56th Ave and 230th St, but your supporters know that you have the best interests of MLT at heart.


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