Quest continues for Camas city administrator

Mayor rejects top 4 candidates, seeks manager who can tackle ‘unique and significant issues’

The search for Camas’ next city administrator is still on.

Camas Mayor Steve Hogan had been expected to name a new administrator this week, but announced Monday that none of the city’s “final four” applicants – vetted by community members and interviewed by city council members earlier this month – had the right mix of qualifications.

“We had four wonderful candidates,” Hogan said. “They were great, with a lot of diversity of backgrounds and strengths … and they have done great jobs where they were before.”

Unfortunately, Hogan said, none of the 34 applicants met the criteria listed in the city’s advertisement for the position.

“We took a gamble and took what looked like the top qualified,” Hogan told The Post-Record on Wednesday. “We were hoping we would be dazzled … but they just didn’t quite meet the standards.”

Hogan said he is now hoping to sway city council members over to a new way of thinking about the city’s top staff position.

“Camas is growing like a weed and it’s taking more and more talented staff to take care of everything we’re doing inside the city government,” Hogan said. “(I would like to) change the description from city administrator to city administrator/city manager and then look at the salary ranges. City managers are a step above city administrators and are capable of running a city without a mayor as CEO.”

Camas currently has a “strong mayor” form of government, but city leaders have, over the past five years, discussed whether the city would be better served by a “strong council” form of government in which a city manager — instead of a mayor and city administrator — would oversee the day-to-day business of the city’s departments.

“Whether we change or don’t change, we need to increase our expertise and knowledge of how to adapt to a growing city,” Hogan said. “It’s better to take our time and get a person who has a really good knowledge of how governments work in both forms of governments.”

In a video statement posted to the city’s website on Monday, May 23, the mayor noted that the city has some “pretty unique and significant issues (its) dealing with right now” and listed ongoing issues with the city’s joint fire department, a three-year computer system update, and “significant facilities needs.”

“So it’s more than just the average city administrator (responsibilities) we’re dealing with,” Hogan said. “We’re looking for someone with a city manager skill set rather than a city administrator. None of the candidates had the whole package.”

City council members would need to approve a salary increase to match a city manager type of position, Hogan said. Officials are likely to discuss the topic during the council’s fifth planning session on Friday, June 3.

The Camas City Council already bumped up the city administrator salary range once this year. In February, 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 to increase the pay scale for the position, bumping the range of $150,000 to $179,000 per year up to the $165,000 to $198,000 annual salary range posted in the city’s advertisement for a new city administrator.

The city has been without a permanent city administrator for more than a year. Former city administrator Jamal Fox quit unexpectedly in May 2021, less than one year into his role running the city’s day-to-day business.

The Camas City Council approved an interim city administrator contract in July 2021, with Jeff Swanson, a former Battle Ground city manager and contract community development director for the city of La Center.

In early 2022, city officials hired Raftelis, an Ohio-based recruitment firm, to lead a nationwide search for a permanent city administrator. Hogan announced on April 28 that city officials and Raftelis consultants had whittled a list of 34 city administrator applicants down to four top candidates.

Hogan and other city officials introduced four potential city administrator candidates — which included two city managers for small towns in Oregon and Washington; Olympia’s assistant city manager; and a community services and library director from Arizona — to the Camas community earlier this month, at an open house held at the city’s Lacamas Lake Lodge on May 12.

Hogan said during the open house that he Hogan 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 on May 12. “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.”

The mayor said Wednesday that he is not sure if the city will need to launch an entirely new search for its next city administrator or if it might be able to add on to its contract with Raftelis to alter the job title and salary.

“It’s unclear at this point,” Hogan said. “I haven’t gone back to the agency to ask that question. I did ask them to leave the job open and, instead of looking for 30 new candidates to show up, to keep me abreast of when they do see one or two talented people.”

In his video released Monday, the mayor said he would continue the search until he found the perfect candidate.

“We want to make sure we come out with a woman or a man that is the right fit for this job,” Hogan said. “So we’ll keep looking.”