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Dawn Sturwold Retiring End of Month

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Dawn Sturwold, the hearing examiner for the City of Bellingham, is retiring at the end of this month. She has been Bellingham’s first and only hearing examiner since the office was created in May, 2000. She started work in the city attorney’s office in 1984.

Update 4:55 pm: The city has informed me their previous information was in error. A contract hearing examiner will start July 1 and serve until a permanent Examiner is hired. The significance of this is there will probably be no rush for a June 23 confirmation by the council, and the process may be more open with more time to make a decision. This is good.

Job applications for her replacement were posted in April and closed in May. Final interviews of candidates will be this Thursday, June 12. This position is one of only two important city positions that requires council approval of the mayor’s appointment. The other is the city attorney position. According to city hall sources, the new appointee is expected to start work on July 1, which means the council will have to approve the mayor’s choice at the June 23 council session.

I am unaware of any news coverage of this important appointment. While it will be a 2 year contract, the person selected will probably serve for many years, perhaps decades. This judicial position is important to our city. I only learned of this today. Anyone know more about this process? Citizens should at least be aware enough to be able to comment at a council meeting before the actual confirmation.

A further question is how much does our council know of the candidates and this process? As the council must approve, have they been involved in the process? Or, as I have heard, is only council president Cathy Lehman involved? I do not think our daily newspaper has reported this.

This appointment is one of the most important of our city government. Should it be a more open public process?

About John Servais

Posting Citizen Journalist • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Jun 10, 2014

Add to that the announcement late this morning that Jeff Thomas, the city Planning Director will be leaving for a new post in Samamish as of 20 Jun.  The announcement follows: 

Planning Director announces resignation to accept job in Sammamish
Posted: June 10, 2014 11:16:30 AM PDT
Jeff Thomas, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Bellingham, has resigned his position to accept a similar job with the City of Sammamish, Washington.
Thomas has been employed by the City since 2007, and served as director for the past four years. He oversaw multiple neighborhood and community planning efforts, and was responsible for various continuous program and service improvements in the Permit Center.
“Under Jeff’s leadership, we have completed numerous plans that will ultimately make our City a better place, including the Fairhaven Neighborhood and Urban Village Plan, the York Neighborhood Plan, and many other plans and projects,” Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said. “He also initiated the City’s first application of “lean” principles, sponsoring a staff team that has gone on to make key improvements to our permit process.”
Thomas’ last day at the City will be June 20, 2014.
Linville said she expects to name an interim director shortly, and will begin the recruitment and selection process for a new director as soon as possible.Planning Director announces resignation to accept job in Sammamish http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/1264/2176089/

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John Servais

Jun 10, 2014

Yes, and NWCitizen had that news yesterday and posted it as a blog post yesterday afternoon.  As the post noted, he starts with Sammamish on July 1. 

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Michael Lilliquist

Jun 11, 2014

When asked if any city council member wanted to be involved in the interviewing process, I volunteered. (I have not heard that any other city council member expressed an interest.) I will participate in all-day interviews of candidates this Thursday. I have met none of them, but I do have their application materials. My input will be advisory only during this phase. The voting will occur later, once the mayor has made her choice.

I think it is important to realize that the Hearings Examiner is created and empowered to make “judicial” determinations that otherwise would have to be made by the city council. In cities without a hearings examiner, the city council still decides. Inasmuch as the city council serves the public and no one else, my point of view is that the hearings examiner must do the same.

Frankly, I think it will be difficult to judge who will perform this duty best, but it will be my goal to try to make that judgment if I can.

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