The Des Moines City Council Study Session held on Thursday, May 2, 2024, focused on two key issues: honoring Sen. Karen Keiser for her years of service, and providing an update on the City Manager recruitment process.

Accolades & Proclamation For Sen. Karen Keiser

After 33 years in the Washington State Legislature, Sen. Karen Keiser is retiring at the end of this year. Keiser is the most senior senator, and President Pro Tempore. According to the proclamation – which honors May 3, 2024 as Karen Keiser Appreciation Day – she has always worked hard to protect and further the interests of residents of Des Moines and surrounding cities. The only public comment at this Study Session was a glowing and warm tribute to the senator. 

“What a surprise!” Keiser said in a Facebook post. “At tonight’s Des Moines City Council meeting I was finishing up my usual end of session legislative report when the Council proposed and passed a Resolution declaring May 3rd “Senator Karen Keiser Appreciation Day,” with many kind words and wonderful comments and recollections shared. It has been such an honor and privilege to represent the cities and people of the 33rd district. Thank you everyone!”

Legislative Update

During her final Legislative Update, Sen. Keiser explained that she is still a full senator for the rest of the year, and her office is open for any communication, concerns, and ideas. 

Keiser said that during the short legislative session they were able to get a balanced budget passed. She added that over the last three years the state budget has earned a AAA bond rating. She also mentioned that not only was Washington State chosen as one of the top ten business-friendly states, it was also selected as one of the top five states for workers. 

She was proud to share that the state took a big step toward addressing faulty Port Packages, as well as other noise and air pollution mitigation. One package was approved for cleaning up the indoor air-quality of schools, and another includes $6 million to address air pollution in the state.

Washington State will now be covering 100% of the cost of police officer training, rather than requiring cities to fund that expense. In addition, they will be increasing the capacity of the training centers. Keiser said staffing is an issue at every police department, and this will address that problem. She also said that state law now allows individual departments to create flexible schedules for experienced officers, so that they can reduce to part time without losing seniority. In the past, policing was an all-or-nothing position. She hopes this will help the state meet their goal of 30% female officers by 2030.

The state also passed legislation that should reduce the viability of stolen catalytic converter sales. Any dealers will need to provide documentation of where their catalytic converters came from. In addition, when cars are sold dealers will etch ID numbers onto the catalytic converter, so if it is stolen it will be identifiable.

Senator Karen Keiser received a standing ovation after her update, and each councilmember spoke warmly of their time working with her, and thanked her for her service to the community.

City Manager Recruitment Update

During this update, Dave Tuan from the recruitment firm SGR came in person to meet with the council. Tuan said the process was well on its way, having completed stakeholder interviews with the council, and just that morning began work on the hiring brochure. The brochure will take 14 days to complete, and will advertise not only the position but the city and its offerings. 

Once that brochure is ready, SGR will actively recruit potential city managers. After a 30-day window to accept applicants, there will be a specially scheduled Executive Session for Council to go over all the possible candidates’ resumes. Deputy Mayor Harry Steinmetz expressed concerns that he thought it would be a cumbersome process to have a group of seven going over so many applicants. Dave Tuan admitted that this is the largest “search committee” he has worked with. He said that recent recruitment attempts in the state have yielded an average of 39 candidates, and he expects Des Moines to receive a good showing since the salary range is generous.

Those initial candidates will be whittled down to a list of 12 semi-finalists, and then down to between three and five finalists at a July 17 meeting. Finalists will travel to Des Moines, meet some staff, and tour the city, as well as conduct in-person interviews the week of August 12th.

Some characteristics Council has expressed they are looking for include being approachable, a good listener, and good at communication and team-building. Councilmembers are open to applicants who are experienced city managers or not. It was shared that some other professions that can become good city managers include police and fire chiefs, as well as military base commanders. 

Assistant City Manager Adrienne Johnson-Newton said everyone who is involved in the interviews will receive anti-bias training in order to conduct interviews fairly. Council expressed concerns with the whole process taking longer than planned, and supported doing things that would speed up the final outcome.