Council briefed on Edmonds police chief selection process, hotel zoning on waterfront

Mayor Mike Nelson congratulates Joe Dwyer on his 100th birthday, proclaiming Feb. 20 as Joe Dwyer Day in Edmonds.

At its regular Tuesday business meeting, the Edmonds City Council heard a detailed presentation from Public Sector Search & Consulting, retained by Mayor Mike Nelson to conduct a comprehensive search for a permanent chief of police. They also heard two presentations from city staff on amending procedures for unit lot subdivision applications, and on amending the city code to add hotels as a permitted use on the city’s waterfront.

The meeting began on an upbeat note, with Mayor Nelson declaring Feb. 20 as “Joe Dwyer Day” in honor of Dwyer’s 100th birthday. Dwyer, who served in England, France and Germany during World War II, has lived in Edmonds since 1976 — and he and his late wife Louise were active participants in the cultural, political and social evolution of Edmonds.

“Joe and Louise loved to dance,” observed Nelson as he presented Dwyer with a framed certificate honoring him.  “And he keeps on dancing whenever he can.”

Next up was the swearing in by acting police chief Jim Lawless of Ken Crystal as the newest sergeant in the Edmonds Police Department.

“Ken has served Edmonds almost 22 years,” said Lawless. “He came here from the Newcastle, Delaware police department, and during his years in Edmonds has worked in a range of areas including property crime and narcotics. He’s earned two letters of commendation, a medal of valor for rescuing an individual from a fire, and was named David Stern officer of the year in 2010.”

Crystal’s family was on hand to assist in the ceremony, with daughter Mattier pinning on her father’s new sergeant’s badge and son Jake presenting his official cap.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out to share this evening with me,” said Crystal. “This is an exciting time at the Edmonds Police Department, with many retirements and new hires. I look forward to helping the new officers, to share what I’ve learned, and guide them the best I can.”

And on the subject of police, the council heard an update on the recruitment process for the new chief to replace Al Compaan, who retired earlier this year after a 40-year career with the Edmonds Police Department. Lawless, a long-time Edmonds PD assistant chief, was named acting chief following Compaan’s retirement.

The City’s Human Resources Department has recommended that when the city performs a director- level recruitment, particularly a police chief recruitment, retaining a professional recruiting firm that specializes in executive police positions is a best practice in order to produce high-quality candidates.

Gary Peterson of Public Sector Search & Consulting, left, was joined by Edmonds Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson to brief the council on the police chief search and selection process.

Gary Peterson of the California-based Public Sector Search & Consulting (PSS&C), the firm retained by Mayor Nelson to conduct the search, was joined by Edmonds Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson to brief council on the selection process.

The contract with PSS&C is for $28,500, of which $22,500 is the base amount for services and up to $6,000 for expenses.

“We specialize in searches for police chiefs,” began Peterson, adding that he has “personally led 23 police chief searches within the past five years. All have resulted in selection of a candidate, all of whom are still in place today.”

Describing PSS&C as a “boutique firm,” Peterson went on to provide information on staff, and other police chief selection processes the firm has handled in recent years including Yakima, Seattle, Sacramento and Redmond (see accompanying slide).

Part of the Public Sector Search & Consulting presentation include listing other police chief searches they have completed.

“As of now we’ve developed a job description and have had discussions with the mayor and HR director about the process,” he continued, explaining that next steps include developing a recruitment brochure specific to the position that lists priorities, key performance outcomes and how success will be measured. “Tonight we’re looking for input from the council as we move forward,” he added.

Peterson went on to describe how the advertising strategy will include diverse groups such as the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Hispanic-American Police Command Officers Association, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, the Washington State Sheriff’s Association and more.

Explaining that the brochure is just one method of attracting candidates, Peterson described how the search would include original research, personal contacts in law enforcement, and a comprehensive look at internal candidates, adding that both internal and external candidates would be subject to the same evaluation criteria and process.

Potential candidates will be screened and narrowed to a list of finalists through in-person and Skype interviews. He stressed that the evaluators will not be limited to in-house staff but will include law enforcement professionals from neighboring jurisdictions, school leaders, senior center officials, diversity commission members and other community partners.

Finalists would be presented to citizens and city staff in person-to-person forums where additional input would be generated. The mayor would select three finalists, after which the council would review and make recommendations. The mayor would then make the final selection subject to council approval.

The entire process is expected to last between 90 and 120 days.

Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas asked how the consultant would like the council to provide suggestions, to which Peterson responded that the format is really up to the council, and that PSS&C staff would be working on recruiting materials over the upcoming 7-10 days.

Councilmember Susan Paine asked whether the research would include review of public records (it will) and what Peterson sees as the biggest challenge in recruiting a police chief for Edmonds.

“The cost of living in Edmonds may dissuade some from applying,” Peterson responded.  “But we ran a very successful process in Redmond, a community with cost of living similar to Edmonds, and generated several strong candidates there.”

Councilmember Olson asked whether moving expenses would have to be provided as part of the package, to which Hoyson responded that it “could be.”

Fraley-Monillas asked specifically about the recent chief selection process in Seattle, which resulted in the selection of Carmen Best, who was not among the initial list of finalists.

Peterson demurred, explaining that once the list was narrowed to the five finalists, his involvement was complete and the subsequent process was handled by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City of Seattle.

Councilmember Olson ended council comments by praising the plans for community involvement in the process, observing that Edmonds citizens care deeply about their community, and encouraged listening to citizen feedback as the process moves forward.

Speaker Darlene Stern questioned the need for a police chief search, recommending that the promotion should be made internally.

Nelson then opened the meeting to public comments. First to speak was Darlene Stern, formerly with the Edmonds Police Foundation and wife of late Edmonds Police Chief David Stern.

Saying that she was “speaking for myself and no other,” she asked what the mayor feels is broken at the police department that needs fixing.

“The Edmonds Police Department is already a successful, cohesive organization,” she continued.  “What message are you sending to the rank and file when you look outside for leadership when there is qualified leadership within? With so many retirements now, it is critical that new hires get cohesive education and support, and bringing in outside leadership does not seem wise. I am convinced that the money being spent on this search is excessive and that individuals within the department should be strongly considered.”

In another matter, the council heard from city staff who presented an ordinance to amend the unit lot subdivision application procedure.

City Planner Mike Clugston described this as a small change that would re-order the steps in the process. Presently developers may apply for the building permit first, and then apply for the unit lot subdivision. Saying the current situation leads to “process inefficiencies,” staff is recommending that building permits be applied for at the same time as application for subdivision.

Before the public hearing on the item began, councilmembers had a discussion about clarifying their process for acting on ordinances the same day as a public hearing.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson recommended that action on ordinances should not happen the same day as a public hearing to give council time to consider additional comments that may come in over the ensuing days and that a vote should be taken at a future meeting.

Councilmember Buckshnis agreed, saying that she and Councilmember Paine had discussed the need for more time for public comment and the chance to further discuss the issue at hand during council study sessions.

Fraley-Monillas pointed out that at present there is nothing in writing one way or the other, and that in the past motions and votes have been made on the same day as a hearing.

Paine said that it is her preference to have time to digest information and elicit additional public comment, and council seemed in general agreement with this approach.

Public comment followed, after which council opted to take no action on the ordinance at this time, but rather consider it at a future meeting.

The purple area represents the commercial waterfront zone, where the council is considering a change to the zoning codes to allow hotels.

This was followed by another draft ordinance for consideration, which would amend the Edmonds Community Development Code (ECDC) to add “hotel” as a permitted use in the commercial waterfront (CW) zone.

City Planner Rob Chave and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty presented the issue, referring to a recent recommendation by the Citizens Economic Development Commission, which sees this as a providing a boost to the local economy. According to the EDC’s recent report on the subject, “while day-trippers spend on average from $44 to $85 per person per day in our local economy, overnighters in Snohomish County spend up to $179 per person per night,” which could provide a substantial boost to our local economy.

Presenters spent considerable time following up on earlier council concerns about the parking issue, and offered the options of allowing the current parking codes on the commercial waterfront to stand (1 stall per 500 square feet), or to amend it such that for hotel use the current residential standard of one stall per living unit would apply, discussing the various pros and cons of both approaches.

Pointing out that it would be incumbent on the developer to ascertain whether any plans would be in compliance with the codes governing parking, Doherty said that it is “our inclination” to stick with the current 1 stall per 500 square feet, but that the decision is up to council.

The presenters also pointed out the trade offs in renovating an existing building for this purpose or building something new, noting that any new building would have to comply with view preservation, including providing view corridors where appropriate.

Kristiana Johnson asked specifically about train noise, noting what while in theory Edmonds needs more hotels and that the waterfront is a lovely place to have one, she feels it is inappropriate where the noise level is that high.

Olson pointed out that automation will change many things in the upcoming years, and that methods other than cars will likely be available to provide access. “We should be ready for this kind of change,” she said. She also observed that modern noise-proofing in construction could provide at least a partial answer to the noise issue.

Chave responded that even now with the ferries, rail and buses serving the area, many guests could choose to leave cars at home.

Paine asked about employee parking permits, and whether hotels might be able to issue guest permits as well. Doherty responded that restaurants usually have the highest parking demand, and they’re currently allowed in the commercial waterfront zone, adding that hotel operators might provide valet service to remote parking areas for guests.

Olson concluded council comments by saying that in her opinion a hotel could be a big economic driver for the city, and that right now Edmonds is losing business to Lynnwood because the city doesn’t have enough accommodations.

Business owner and Economic Development Commissioner Kimberly Koenig gave testimony supporting a waterfront hotel.

Public comment followed, with business owner and Economic Development Commissioner Kimberly Koenig favoring a hotel — stating it is an opportunity to have the only beachfront boutique hotel in the greater Seattle area, which would spur local economic growth.

Resident Lee Kimmelman followed Koenig, noting that proximity to bus, rail and ferry lines would bring in guests and that a hotel offers nothing but opportunity.

Port Commissioner David Preston reminded the council that there is already a hotel on the waterfront – the marina.  The marina each year hosts 5,000 guest nights where folks stay on their boats and spend money in Edmonds.

In other business the council heard the annual reports from the city hearing examiner and the city prosector.

Concluding comments from council included reminders about this weekend’s chowder cook-off, to not use Brackett’s Landing beach to run your dogs, and thanking the community for coming out to the recent Citizen’s Housing Commission open house.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel


24 Replies to “Council briefed on Edmonds police chief selection process, hotel zoning on waterfront”

  1. Darlene Stern’s comments are, of course, precisely right. Hiring a recruiting consultant is unneeded when there’s a candidate with optimum qualifications in plain sight. This process is a waste of time and money. In addition to the consultant’s expense it is highly likely that there will be relocation expenses if a candidate is selected from out of this area. Mayor Nelson is off to a very disappointing start; let’s hope that it’s not the beginning of a trend.


  2. I’m not surprised Mike Nelson is wasting taxpayer money by hiring an unnecessary recruiting consultant. For 6 years he wasn’t careful enough with his personal finances to fully pay his federal taxes. It doesn’t appear that his budgeting decisions are any better with taxpayer money.

    What is the largest contract the Mayor can sign without having to go to council for approval? Maybe it should be lowered.


  3. I complete agree with remarks by Ron Wambolt.

    Darlene spoke with great regard to our present men and women in blue! I can’t understand why it’s necessary to go hunting for a new Chief when we have qualified officers in house.

    Waste of MONEY!!!!


      1. Thank you Mr. Wambolt. I only ask this question as an article in Jan. stated I believe the mayor would ask council for approval for the money unless I misread it.

        In this case then, I move the 100K be decreased to $100 without council approval. Is there a second? 100K seems kind of high.


        1. Here is the original news release that came from the mayor’s office on this topic, as an FYI:
          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2020

          To: Media
          Contact: Patrick Doherty, Director, Economic Development & Community Services
, 425-771-0251


          (Edmonds, WA) Mayor Mike Nelson has announced the launch of a recruitment process to fill the position of Chief of Police for the City of Edmonds. Mayor Nelson intends to engage the services and expertise of a reputable recruitment firm to lead the search process. Mayor Nelson stated, “We will have an inclusive and transparent search process that considers the very best internal and external candidates. We intend to have participation from a wide variety of community stakeholders, including police employees and members of the public.”

          In response to former Police Chief Al Compaan’s retirement at the end of 2019, Mayor Nelson named Assistant Chief Jim Lawless as Acting Chief, who will continue in that capacity during this recruitment process.

          In the coming weeks the Mayor will present the proposed recruitment process to City Council for their review and input, as well as seek budget authorization for engaging the recruitment firm. The firm currently under consideration specializes in police executive searches and has successfully completed other police chief searches in the region.

          The Mayor hopes for a permanent Police Chief to be in place by June 1st.

          For more information, please contact Patrick Doherty, Director, Economic Development & Community Services at or 425-771-0251.


  4. Help me understand your reasons for outside recruitment and support you Mr. Mayor. I don’t get it. During the meeting Jim Lawless is awarding one of his officers a promotion with officer’s family present. On the same agenda is a presentation to potentially not give a highly qualified candidate in place the job. Is this standard council procedure? In his shoes, I know how I would feel and think. The criteria used by this firm is already practiced here by our own officers on a daily basis. Why the expensive outside search? Moving expenses? Jim Lawless lives here. How much does that add to the search and why the willingness to spend. My fear is needless potential damage to our department.

    Please help me get it and support you.


  5. This is what can happen when voters choose a candidate by their political party affiliation and irresponsibility disregard who is the better qualified candidate.


    1. I can’t believe a Mayor is allowed to spend 100K without prior Council approval. That blows me away. Man we are fools to stay with this “Hicksville” form of government. Time to look at Strong Council and Weak Mayor with Council elected out of districts. It’s going to get damn costly to keep living in this “berg” with this kind of backward management. You have a non problem that isn’t discussed and blindly spend $25,000 to solve it. Amazingly stupid!


  6. What happened to asking council to approve the money to use the search firm? Looks like a done deal. Did they get to vote on the money already or is that next week? I see no votes or many questions about it from council. I assume they are all good with it then.


  7. It seems to me from the outside looking in, that this process is being presented backwards. The Mayor goes ahead and hires a firm; gives them the go ahead to get started and then goes to the Council to ask for the money to pay for it? Just seems strange. Is there some proper protocol or system for these personnel issues? This aspect of our system of city government really seems broken to me. This just doesn’t pass the smell test for proper procedure. If the Mayor has this kind of power, he shouldn’t I think. Mike, please explain to us how I am wrong here. I want to be proved wrong on this.


  8. What a slap in the face to Jim Lawless and the whole fine Edmonds Police Department and the Edmonds citizens. The true colors of Mayor Nelson have come out in less than 1 month in office. What city staff will leave under this type of leadership??? The City Council stays silent on this issue, shame on them.

    Fred Gouge


  9. It seems like Mayor Nelson needs to be reminded that he’s now spending taxpayers’ money, not his own personal money or union members’ funds. Perhaps city council should reduce the amount that he’s able to spend without their approval – “close the barn door before even more horses escape.”


  10. I hope there is more outreach and discussion with the public before the council makes there decision on allowing waterfront hotels. It will likely bring more money into Edmonds but it will also bring in more traffic and permanently change our waterfront. In addition to a parking garage the city will probably have to build the waterfront connector to ensure the safety of visitors.


  11. Nelson is doing what Nelson has always done, he does what he wants. He has had financial troubles personally; now he will handle our tax dollars the same way. He is irresponsible and this was written about and discussed in MEN comments during his campaign, but many of you defended him and said it was a “smear” to bring up his financial problems, and past unions questionable activities. Well, we now are are getting the mayor we deserve!


  12. Thank you, Larry, for reporting on Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. I am pleased to see that My Edmonds News reported on some of the audience comments made. I am puzzled why more audience comments were not reported on.
    Specifically, it was pointed out that the City has again missed the expiration of the Hearing Examiner’s term of office and his related contract. This happened previously on December 31, 2014 and My Edmonds News reported on the situation at least twice via articles dated November 16, 2015 and November 20, 2015. I think the fact that the City missed the expiration of the Hearing Examiner’s term of office and his related contract again at December 31, 2019 is worthy of reporting on. How does stuff like this happen? Who is responsible for monitoring terms of office and contract terms at City Hall?
    Later in your article you report that “Public comment followed…”, but you don’t report what the public comment was. In general, please provide more reporting on public comments. Thank you.


  13. Here is another thought regarding this process with the Edmonds Police Department Mission Statement posted on the website and the wall in the precinct. This was developed, lived and reinforced daily.

    “We place service before self, with an unwavering and unbiased commitment to public safety, improving the quality of life for our community.”

    I feel badly for all employees and officers of the EPD, Jim Lawless, and former Chief Al Compaan who spent 40 years help build one of the best in the region. Now they all must witness an outside search when the right thing to do here is to promote from within with a highly qualified candidate ready to go and keep momentum and department intact. This sends a strong positive message to the community as well.

    They all appear to be unappreciated resources. The city is failing them and the citizens miserably here. It appears to be the Edmonds way.

    If city hall and council want a mission statement I suggest they read this one and start practicing it.


  14. I supported Nelson for Mayor. I still think Nelson was a victim of smears during the election. I think Nelson is wrong and out of line on this decision to choose a chief. I don’t have a clue what his motivation is in taking the route he has on this. (Maybe he is just trying to appear fair and unbiased or important, I don’t know.) It do know it is a stupid move from a political standpoint. That said:

    We need to do the same thing to this Mayor and Council on this issue that we did to the last Mayor and Council on the Connector issue. This Mayor and Council need to see about 3 to 5 hundred of us camped out on the Courthouse lawn at the next relevant city council meeting carrying signs saying “no search” and “appoint Lawless”. Invite the local and Seattle press. This is what it will take. I will be there if a movement to do this develops and I’m not out of town. This is a stupid waste of money and it needs to be stopped.


  15. We could buy 5-10 “Welcome to Edmonds” signs for $100k. We could even hire the wrong cheif for $100k on a probationary basis, then cut him loose if he weren’t working out.


  16. Darlene Stern asked the Mayor questions during audience comments. The Mayor choose to not answer her or even respond at the end of meeting. Did the Mayor disclose the cost of Police Chief recruitment? No, he didn’t.
    The City Council holds the purse strings. Please, new Council Members don’t approve the expenditure for the Recruitment agreement. The Mayor can pay it out of his own pocket. Dumb that he didn’t go the Council prior to engaging an recruitment company.

    Rumor has it the City Attorney has advised the Mayor, City Council, City Staff, and Board and Commission Members not to answer citizen and emails and answer any questions.

    Two weeks ago, I asked Mayor Nelson; Who tracks the expiration dates of city contracts and agreements. To date no response, what are we paying his salary for if he can’t answer our questions?

    Mayor Nelson’s administration is starting off on the wrong foot!


  17. As long as we have a strong Mayor/weak Council from of government we will have these kinds of problems. When the Mayor answers only to everyone in town ( at election time); he basically answers to no one in town (except once every four years). When the council members answer only to everyone in town and not to one geographically based group of taxpayers, they basically answer to no one (except everyone once every four years). In my opinion, Edmond’s government is fatally flawed by design. This is why we get fancy expensive parks and fountains in the middle of the main road while buildings are not maintained and good dedicated employees leave in a huff. If we keep putting up with it, we deserve it. Our only chance to stop the time and money waste is to hit the streets (in front of City Hall) with signs and recall petitions when our elected officials don’t use good common sense.


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