One year after Camas lost both its mayor and city administrator to unexpected resignations, the city is on a path the current Camas mayor, Steve Hogan, hopes will lead to greater stability in the future.
At an open house held Thursday, May 12, at Lacamas Lake Lodge, Hogan and other city officials introduced four potential city administrator candidates — whittled down from a list of 34 applicants — to the Camas community.
Hogan expects to name a new city administrator later this month.
“This person will function as the chief operating officer of the city … and I will really rely on (them) to help me leave the city more stable than when I stepped into it,” Hogan said.
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.
City Council members hired Raftelis, an Ohio-based recruitment firm, in early 2022 to lead a nationwide search for a permanent city administrator.
Hogan announced during an April 28 town hall meeting that city officials and Raftelis consultants had whittled a list of 34 city administrator applicants down to four top candidates:
- Jeff Niten, city manager for the city of Shelton, Washington, who has worked locally — as a planner for Clark County from 2006 to 2015 and as the city of Ridgefield’s community development director between March 2015 and January 2019;
- Kira Peters, the city of Scottsdale, Arizona’s community services administrator and library system director with experience leading library, parks and recreation, and aquatic center staff;
- Keith Stahley, the assistant city manager — and former community planning and development director — for the city of Olympia, Washington, who has more than 30 years’ worth of experience working for local governments in Florida, North Carolina and Washington; and
- Mike Thomas, the city manager for the city of Amity, Oregon, who served as a lieutenant colonel and squadron commander in the United States Air Force pivoting to civilian life, earning his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oregon and taking a job leading Amity’s day-to-day city operations.
The four city administrator finalists came to Camas last week to interview with Camas officials and members of a citizens advisory panel that included former Camas mayor Nan Henriksen, the Port of Camas-Washougal’s chief executive officer David Ripp and Camas Planning Commission member Mahsa Eshghi; walking through downtown Camas with members of the Downtown Camas Association; touring the city with Camas’ parks and recreation director Trang Lam and public works director Steve Wall; and talking to community members who showed up for the in-person meet-and-greet event at Lacamas Lake Lodge on May 12.
The four applicants touted their government leadership experience and their appreciation of the city of Camas during the meet-and-greet event.
“I’ve been here a couple times and have always been impressed by this city,” Thomas said, adding that, after serving more than 20 years in the Air Force, they’d been drawn to government work.
“I wanted to continue in public service,” Thomas said. “I like solving problems and working with people and teams to achieve our goals and objectives.”
Niten highlighted their experience in long-range and comprehensive planning for the city of Ridgefield – “one of the fastest growing cities in the nation” — and more recent work leading Shelton, Washington, a city west of Olympia with around 11,000 residents.
Peters said they enjoyed public speaking and would characterize their city leadership style as communicative, hands-on and transparent.
Stahley emphasized their 35 years of public service and experience in community planning and development. Having toured Camas with Lam and Wall earlier that day, Stahley said they thought city leaders who had invested in land earmarked for parks, open spaces and public use had “lots of foresight.”
Hogan said last week that, although the hiring decision is his to make, he wanted to thoroughly consider feedback from community members, city staff and officials and members of the citizens advisory group before selecting a new city administrator.
“I’m looking for someone with emotional intelligence, someone who is pragmatic,” Hogan said, adding he wanted to find a city administrator who would help the community better understand the internal workings of the city.
“We need to have better communication coming out of the city,” Hogan said.
The mayor said he expects to make a decision soon, but will not announce his choice before Monday, May 23.
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.