Camas narrows search for new city administrator

City had 34 applicants, will introduce ‘final four’ to the public during May 12 event

Camas officials are closing in on hiring a new city administrator to help Mayor Steve Hogan oversee the city’s 240 employees and guide Camas’ day-to-day operations. 

The city’s nationwide search, led by Raftelis, an Ohio-based recruitment firm, closed the first week of April and netted 34 applicants.

City leaders have now narrowed the list of 34 down to four top candidates.

“After two rounds of sorting through applicants, we have whittled it down to the final four,” Hogan told a Camas resident who asked about the city administrator hiring process during the Camas City Council’s town hall on Thursday, April 28. “We have had four council members involved in the process so far.”
The other three city councilors will interview the final four candidates when the applicants visit the city of Camas next week on Thursday and Friday, May 12-13. 

The city plans to release the names of the four top candidates on May 10, and hold a public meet-and-greet event from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at Lacamas Lake Lodge, 227 N.E. Lake Road, Camas. 

The city administrator hopefuls also will tour the city’s historic downtown with members of the Downtown Camas Association. 

The new hire will be the third person to fill the city’s top staffing position since former city administrator Pete Capell retired in January 2020. Capell’s replacement, Jamal Fox, announced his resignation in May 2021, less than one year after his hire and just a few weeks after Barry McDonnell, the mayor who hired Fox, announced his own surprise resignation from city politics. In July 2021, Camas City Council members approved an interim city administrator contract with Jeff Swanson, a former Battle Ground city manager and contract community development director for the city of La Center.

The city’s recruitment ad called for a candidate with at least seven years of “progressively responsible experience in municipal government, including five years of administrative or leadership responsibility … an exceptional ability to develop effective relationships with a history of working closely with a Mayor and City Council (and) a sound financial background with a strong understanding of budgets and financial management.”

The new city administrator will be expected to live in Camas and will earn between $165,000 and $198,000 per year, depending on the candidate’s qualifications.

After hearing from the city’s administrative services director that Camas’ city administrator pay was below the salaries offered in similar jurisdictions, the city council voted unanimously on Feb. 22 to increase the pay scale for the city administrator position, bumping the current range of $150,000 to $179,000 per year up to the advertised $165,000 to $198,000 range. The new salary range bumped the top step of the city’s pay scale up to $16,500 per month. 

City will soon begin search for 3 other key staff positions 

The city administrator position is one of four key staff positions city officials hope to fill this year. 

The city’s fire chief, Nick Swinhart, resigned from his position earlier this year to “pursue opportunities,” according to a city statement released March 8. 

Hogan named Cliff Free, the Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s division chief of emergency medical services, as interim fire chief on March 7, and said Camas-Washougal Fire Marshal Ron Schumacher will assist Free with his additional responsibilities.

One month later, the city’s longtime police chief, Mitch Lackey, announced he, too, was leaving – and would retire within the year. 

The police chief transition should be less painful, as Lackey – who joined the Camas Police Department as an officer in 1990 and succeeded retiring police chief Don Chaney as the head of the department in 2008 – has indicated he will stick around long enough to help the new chief have a smooth entry into the department. 

“It has been an honor to serve the city in this capacity all these years,” Lackey told the Post-Record in early April.. “I think the timing is right for a switch in the (police) department, and I will work with the mayor and the city administrator so that we have a real smooth transition. … We’ve just wrapped up some big projects – re-accreditation, a new labor contract, body cameras – (and) I’ve still got a couple more projects that I will be working on to help facilitate the transition for the next chief.”

The city also needs to hire a permanent replacement for longtime community development director Phil Bourquin, who retired from his leadership position in September 2021.

At Bourquin’s last city council meeting, on Sept. 20, 2021, several council members bid him a fond farewell and noted that the community development director had brought “a culture of caring and commitment” to Camas during his time leading the city’s community development department.