For Liberty Lake Mayor-elect Steve Peterson, the latest developments at City Hall recall some of the good old days from a decade ago.
In the months after incorporation was approved by voters in November 2000 by a 65- percent margin, Peterson and other leaders went about constructing the foundation of Spokane County’s newest city. They would be supported by municipal consultants from across the state who brought insight and experience to the task of building a jurisdiction from the ground up.
On Tuesday night, the Liberty Lake City Council agreed to bring on another advisor to help with the latest post-election transition.
In a 4-1 vote – Council Members Ryan Romney and Susan Schuler were absent – the governing board approved an agreement to hire Mike Cecka, former city manager of Maple Valley, as an interim municipal consultant. Cecka, who has also served as city administrator in Leavenworth and Cle Elum, is currently a part-time consultant with Prothman and Associates, a Seattle-based firm that specializes in municipal employment recruiting.
“We narrowed it down to three candidates and two couldn’t start until January,” said Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman. “Mike also brings knowledge of Washington state law.”
The original group of candidates for the interim position numbered 18. A committee formed of City Council members and citizens interviewed consultant hopefuls over the past month, whittling the list down to eight, then three.
Council Member Odin Langford, who served on the committee, said the process of selecting qualified applicants “was professional and accurate.”
“This committee was outstanding,” said Langford. “These were all good candidates. You could have thrown a dart and been OK.”
The City Council agreed at its Oct. 4 meeting to set aside $35,000 for the interim consultant in lieu of potential changes at City Hall. Proposition 1 on the November ballot asked Liberty Lake voters to weigh in on an initiative to shift the current strong mayor form of government to a system featuring a full-time, nonelected city manager. Over 70 percent voted against the idea. Meanwhile, Peterson was swept back into office, defeating Council Member Josh Beckett by a resounding 74 percent margin.
While a city manager will not be part of the city’s payroll, funds were set aside in the 2012 for a city administrator, a role that was part of the landscape in Liberty Lake until late 2005 when Peterson announced that Lewis Griffin, the inaugural city administrator, would not return for 2006.
The salary of the new city administrator, including benefits, is set at $160,000 for next year.
On Tuesday, Peterson applauded the decision to bring on Cecka, saying the veteran administrator “understands how cities work.”
“I want to start with a fresh slate and rebuild, and I think Mike is going to help us do that,” Peterson said. “Right now, there is no agenda. We just have to look at the issues.”
Cecka was scheduled to meet with Van Orman, Peterson and other city representatives on Friday (today).