Wally Bobkiewicz, Evanston’s City Manager since 2009, is the leading candidate to become the next City Administrator in Issaquah, Washington, with that town expected to make its final decision within the next two weeks.
Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly paid an on-site visit to Evanston on July 25, meeting with individual Council members, City staff, and representatives of the business community, Northwestern University and others to learn more about that town’s top candidate.
“I am strongly encouraged by what I observed,” she wrote in a posting on the Issaquah.gov website. “I believe Wally Bobkiewicz shares my values and those of the Issaquah community. I was impressed by the evidence of Wally’s leadership and how his team reflects the community they serve.”
Ms. Pauly said in a telephone interview Aug. 6 that the town (pop. 30,440) is continuing its due-diligence, with the hope of arriving at a decision within the next two weeks. During that time, there will be an opportunity for Issaquah’s Council to discuss qualifications in a closed Executive Session. Issaquah Council members could potentially take formal action to confirm an appointment at a public session, also falling within the next weeks, she said in her posting of the timeline.
In the telephone interview Aug. 6, the Issaquah mayor said she is not planning at this time to make a similar on-site visit to the city of the other announced finalist, Marty Wine, who has been City Manager of Tigard, Oregon, since December 2011.
“The pathway I decided to take, I’m interested in learning more about Wally Bobkiewicz and his management style, his experience, so I made the site visit,” she said in the phone interview. “I still have some work to do and then the next part of the process would be if an offer is made and a contract is negotiated, then I would be making an announcement in the next couple of weeks.”
In the case that a contract isn’t reached, she said the town would renew its search, revisiting the other finalists and reposting if necessary.
At this point, though, the information that Mr. Bobkiewicz has shared with Issaquah officials throughout the process “shows there’s a lot of ways that Wally approaches local government that lines up with the values of myself as the Mayor and my community,” she said.
As for her visit to Evanston July 25, Mayor Pauly said, though the interview process can provide insights about “the work somebody’s done and their passion for it,” she wanted to make an on-site visit to learn more.
“You know we’re also a growing city that is located next store to a large, very large metropolitan city [Seattle] and so we experienced some of the same growing issues,” she said. She said she liked some of the ideas Mr. Bobkiewicz’s shared about his management style and approach to innovation during the interview process, and “I just wanted to make sure what does that look like after 10 years of Evanston—how has Evanston benefited and how the teams worked together to pull off some of the projects.”
During the roughly 12 hours she spent in Evanston, Mayor Pauly toured the new Robert Crown Community Center project, sat in on a City staff team meeting, learned more about the City’s financing mechanism and Tax Increment Financing and visited the top of the Rotary Building. “I couldn’t believe the 360-degree view up there, it was phenomenal. The park system was absolutely amazing,” she added.
“I also love that when I was driving around and doing a tour of the City early on in the morning,” she said, “that we happened upon one of the aldermen just jogging in the park, and we could roll down the window and have a chat with him. It gave me a sense of the sides of Evanston. It’s a place you can know all corners of. It was awesome.”
The Issaquah mayor said she came back with eight pages of notes, highlighting “initiatives and projects and approaches that I heard the Evanston team had taken, managing growth and redevelopment that absolutely fascinated me.”
Officials in Issaquah have been using a consultant to help them in their recruitment for a new City Administrator. The City Administrator there reports to the mayor, and directs, administers and coordinates the functions of Issaquah’s various offices and departments.
The Issaquah search started with a pool of 80 applicants. That field was whittled down to 12, with a smaller number brought in for interviews, Mayor Pauly said. Mr. Bobkiewicz and Ms. Wine emerged as the finalists, selected to come before the community and Council.
“People said that both candidates bring a lot of strengths, but I received more comments in favor of Wally Bobkiewicz,” Ms. Pauly wrote in her posting. “Commenters cited his related experience and how he handled answered questions.”