San Juan County Council selected Michael Thomas for the position of county manager. Thomas' experience is as a city not county administrator, the same as former county Administrator Pete Rose.
Early in the hiring process, when the six-member council was listing qualifications desired in candidates, experience as a county Administrator/manager was on the list. Thomas has been the City of Enumclaw Administrator for more than three years.
The overriding reason for hiring Thomas in Council member Bob Jarman's opinion was that he would listen to the council.
Jarman saw Thomas' background in planning as a plus though he noted it may not seem so to some citizens. Thomas was the Assistant Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Aberdeen and Senior Planner for the cities of Burien and Federal Way.
Council member Rich Hughes liked Thomas' knowledge of Washington state law. Thomas has 24 years of experience in local government in Washington, was a Senior Policy Analyst for the King County Executive's Office, Office of Management and Budget law. Other pluses in Hughes' opinion were Thomas' ownership of property in the county (on Decatur Island) and the fact he has school-age children. His team approach to work was also a plus.
Council member Jamie Stephens liked Thomas' collaborative approach and his style of working with rather than directing the council and managers.
Interim county manager Bob Jean said the citizens' committee which interviewed the five candidates had considered Thomas a top choice.
The council made a motion to offer Thomas a contract after a five-minute executive session Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
There were 44 applicants for the position, five of whom resided in the County. The Prothman Company recruiting firm screened the candidates and presented a list of semi-finalists to the county Council.
The Council selected a six candidates to interview, including one local candidate who withdrew from consideration prior to the interviews.
The council interviewed the remaining five candidates - Jim Pascale, Michael Pence, Suzanne Sinclair, Michael Thomas, and David Wilbrecht.
Open Houses were held on May 13 on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands to give the general public a chance to meet each canddiate. The next day, the candidates individually met with separate groups of staff and citizens. They were also interviewed by the council.
The council then listened to the results the citizens and staff in executive session and read the feedback forms submitted by attendees at the open houses.
The council held final interviews with each candidate in executive session Wednesday, May 15 before making their decision.
Short career summaries for each finalist:
Career Overviews of Finalists for San Juan County Manager Position
JIM PASCALE resides in Hopewell, New Jersey, and was most recently Township Administrator for Princeton Township, New Jersey, where he served in that position continuously for 30 years. Early in his career, he was also Administrator for Mahwah Township, New Jersey, for four years.
Mr. Pascale has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from Rutgers University, New Jersey.
MICHAEL PENCE has been the County Administrator for Flathead County, Montana, for the past 8 years. He has over 32 years of city and county management experience and has been the City Administrator for Kemmerer, Wyoming, City Manager for Ocean Shores, Washington, City Administrator for Sibley, Iowa, Auditor for Hardin County, Iowa, and Deputy Auditor for Grundy County, Iowa.
Mr. Pence was also Commercial Development Manager for the Quinault Land & Timber Enterprise, Ocean Shores, Washington, for five years. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, Iowa.
SUZANNE SINCLAIR lives in Seneca Falls, New York, and is currently Senior Capital Projects Accountant for Finger Lakes Health, Geneva, New York. Prior to that, she was County Manager for Seneca County, New York, from 2008-2011.
Ms. Sinclair was Island County (Washington) Auditor for ten years and served as Accounting Supervisor for the county's Public Works Department prior to becoming Auditor. Early in her career, she also worked for Edwards & Associates, CPAs, in Freeland, Washington, for almost 10 years. Ms. Sinclair has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Central Washington University, Lynnwood, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana.
MICHAEL THOMAS has been the City Administrator for the City of Enumclaw, Washington, for over three years. Prior to that he served the city as Community & Economic Development Director for five years. Mr. Thomas has 24 years of experience in local government in Washington and he has been a Senior Policy Analyst for the King County Executive's Office-Office of Management & Budget, Senior Planner for the cities of Burien and Federal Way, and he was Assistant Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Aberdeen.
He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University.
DAVID WILBRECHT is from Mammoth Lakes, California, and was most recently Town Manager for that community where he was hired to deal with the town's financial crisis and potential bankruptcy due to a lawsuit. Prior to that, he was County Administrative Officer for Mono County, California, for eight years, and he was also Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services for Mammoth Lakes from 2000-2003.
Mr. Wilbrecht has 18 years of local government experience in Washington, including Deputy Director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services for the City of Federal Way and Parks Division Manager for the City of Redmond. Early in his career, he also worked for the City of Auburn and for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office and Planning Department. Mr. Wilbrecht has a bachelor's degree in Sociology from Central Washington University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University.