By Nicholas Johnson

The Burien City Council got its first look Monday night (Jan. 24, 2021) at five consulting firms that want to lead the city’s search for a new city manager.

“This is probably one of the most important things this council will do,” Mayor Sofia Aragon said of hiring a new city manager.

In the wake of former City Manager Brian Wilson’s November 2021 announcement that he would resign Jan. 15, 2022, the city council directed staff to publish a request for proposals for executive search consulting services. Five firms submitted proposals by the Jan. 14 deadline.

On Monday night, the council agreed to narrow the list to two firms at its Jan. 31 meeting. The council also directed staff to bring back more information about each firm’s strategy to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the search process.

Councilmember Cydney Moore said the council should not only be looking at a firm’s track record for recruiting candidates of diverse backgrounds but also each firm’s consultants themselves.

“It holds true that people from diverse backgrounds are more likely to hire other people from diverse backgrounds,” Moore said. “Our city managers historically have maintained a very distinctive pattern of being white men, which is certainly not a great reflection of our diverse community.”

The five consultants being considered include:

    • Colin Baenziger & Associates, which is headquartered in Florida and has an office in Redmond, Washington, handled the city’s 2017 city manager search that resulted in Wilson’s hiring. The firm has 24 years of experience, and its services would cost $30,500, according to its proposal.
    • GMP Consulting, which is based in Snoqualmie, Washington, boasts 25 years of experience. Its services would cost $24,500, according to its proposal.
    • GovHRUSA, which is based in Illinois, is a women-owned firm with 17 years of experience. Its services would cost $23,500, according to its proposal, and its vice president in Seattle would manage the search.
    • Reffett Associates, which is based in Seattle, is a veteran-owned firm with 30 years of experience. Its services would cost $37,500, according to its proposal, and the search would be led by its director of operations, who grew up in and continues to live in the West Seattle/Burien area.
    • WBCP, Inc., which is based in Oregon and has an office in Burien, is a women-owned firm with 20 years of experience. Its services would cost $24,500 plus $5,500-$7,900 for travel, brochure and advertising expenses.

City staff will check each firm’s references and the city council may conduct interviews with its favored firms before selecting one and beginning contract negotiations. The council has budgeted some $70,000 to find Burien’s next city manager.

Selection of a search firm will be based on experience, cost, references, dependability and responsiveness, according to the city’s request for proposals, and a firm could be selected by late February or early March, according to a staff-proposed timeline.

The council could select a new city manager by late May before negotiating an employment contract and a start date. Earlier this month, the council tapped PaRCS Director Carolyn Hope to serve as interim city manager until a new city manager is hired.

In their proposals, the firms commit to completing the search within certain time frames ranging from less than 90 days with Reffett Associates and WBCP, Inc., to as much as 112 days with GMP Consulting. Aragon said the council should be prepared for the recruitment process to take longer than anticipated.

“A lot of the search firms are looking at 90 days but we could be prepared to go longer,” Aragon said, “just because I’m not hearing a lot of optimism around the current labor pool for anything.”

 

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].