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 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).
“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.
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.
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.
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