Yakima City Council members discussed what they’d like to see in a new city manager Tuesday as they worked on the job requirements for the position.
The proposed requirements call for a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience as a city manager, assistant city manager or some other senior administrative officer. A master’s degree is preferred, according to the job description.
Council members Matt Brown and Mayor Patricia Byers advocated for adding alternative requirements. Brown said he wanted candidates who could bring experience to the position.
Brown proposed including candidates with 10 years of experience as a CEO or CFO in a business or executive branch, and reducing the required experience as a city manager or other administrative officer from five to three years.
Brown said he didn’t want to get rid of the education requirements, but wanted to open the position to more applicants.
Council Member Janice Deccio was concerned with changing the description.
“I don’t want just anyone to be able to apply for the position,” Deccio said. “They’re basically the CEO of a multi-million-dollar corporation.”
At its first meeting of 2024, the council voted to remove City Manager Bob Harrison without cause. Three new, more conservative council members were elected in November 2023 and have said they want a new city manager who more closely shares their goals.
Dave Zabell, who is serving as interim city manager, suggested using more exact language for Brown’s updates. Zabell said city council members could specify what size of corporation or executive branch candidates had experience in.
Zabell added that he’d been working as a consultant to help hire city managers in the past and was not a candidate for the position.
Council members asked Human Resources Director Connie Evans to create draft language around the changes and research 2025 city manager salaries ahead of its next meeting. The salary range listed in city documents for the position is $197,184 to $239,699.
In other action, the council voted to extend a moratorium on downtown parking enforcement to April 19.
The city is working on a new plan for downtown parking after residents and business owners raised concerns about the current policy, which requires permits or tickets for those who park for more than two hours in many spaces and parking lots.
City council members thanked community members for attending a Jan. 23 study session on the parking issue.
“This is that next step to finding that solution,” Brown said.
Council member Danny Herrera and Byers both urged residents to send in their ideas.
After city code enforcement officials presented an annual report on local infractions and mitigation efforts, Council member Rick Glenn asked that the city take time to look at its code enforcement regulations.
“What we really need to do as a city council is pull up some of those ordinances and review them,” he said.
Glenn said he had received complaints about the application of city codes and suggested grandfathering in certain practices.
The issue could come up at a future study session. Brown also asked for a study session on zero-based budgeting.
City staff concerns
For the second straight city council meeting, city staff represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1122 spoke about staffing vacancies and uncompetitive pay.
“The main reason we cannot hire anyone is because our wages are not competitive,” said Brian Dean, a corrections officer.
Other city employees said they had seen coworkers leave for other jobs with better benefits.
“Due to our non-competitive wages, we have not been fully staffed for several years,” said Nathan Wallace, a transit department employee.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Council member Matt Brown’s proposed changes to the city manager job requirements.