New Port Angeles manager discusses spending plan
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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McKeen, in his first public appearance since Friday, when the City Council named him the permanent city manager, told the Port Angeles Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting that the city’s 2012 general-fund spending plan is being squeezed by lower-than-projected utility tax and sales tax proceeds and ever-escalating criminal justice costs.
McKeen, who had served as interim city manager since April 17, said some vacancies are not being filled, and options for one-time budget cuts for 2012 are being considered even as city officials continue putting together a spending plan for 2013, which the council will discuss at a work session Tuesday.
“I feel confident that working with staff, we’ll be able to narrow that gap,” McKeen, 56, told about three dozen meeting participants.
During a half-hour presentation he gave without notes, McKeen spoke of the “challenges” he has faced in his 33-year career as a firefighter-paramedic and fire department administrator, along with those he faces now — and how he relishes challenging them.
“At the same time we have challenges, we have opportunities,” he said, citing the city’s upcoming waterfront improvement project.
The $17.3 million improvement effort is slated to begin this summer on Railroad Avenue and Oak Street near the city’s port of international entry at the MV Coho ferry dock.
“That will transform the look of our waterfront and be the catalyst for future growth and future business in the downtown area,” McKeen said.
“Not only is it a fantastic thing for visitors, it’s a great thing for people who live here.”
In addition, the public component of the city’s new wireless network will be 70 percent complete by September, said Police Chief Terry Gallagher, one of several city officials and staff — including Mayor Cherie Kidd — at the breakfast meeting.
The network “provides an umbrella over the entire city” for users who sign up for the service, McKeen said.
“You’ll be able to take your laptop and walk anyplace in the city and essentially have connectivity with high-speed Internet,” McKeen said.
“This makes Port Angeles very unique.”
McKeen, who had been city fire chief for 12 years before he was named to the interim city manager post, is negotiating a city manager contract with the city.
McKeen moved from Walla Walla to Port Angeles to fill a firefighter-paramedic position 27 years ago.
Then, he became medical officer in charge of the paramedic program, assistant chief-fire marshal, then fire chief.
McKeen said he applied for the assistant chief job to challenge himself “and see how well I would do on the test.”
McKeen was appointed fire chief by former City Manager Mike Quinn.
“Not only do I like working with a lot of different groups, I like change,” McKeen said.
He said citizens and council members urged him to apply for the interim city manager position after Kent Myers left to take the city manager vacancy in Fredericksburg, Texas.
“Things changed there, too,” McKeen recalled.
“Probably the most successful leadership quality is building a relationship,” he said.
“I was able to work closely with staff at a level I was never able to before. I was able to work with the council at a level I was never able to before, and the community” he said.
“A lot of members of the community came up and supported me in that role and talked about if I would consider throwing my hat into the ring for city manager.”
McKeen said the City Council had him interview with Issaquah-based Prothman Co., an executive search firm the City Council hired for $17,500 plus expenses to find qualified applicants to permanently replace Myers.
“The recruiter said he would recommend Dan as one of the very top candidates,” Kidd said, adding that she gets phone calls from citizens who want to talk about McKeen.
They tell her “we have a city manager who is one of us, he’s going to look out for us,” Kidd said.
Dick Pilling, president of the Port Angeles Business Association, said the decision to hire McKeen was widely applauded in Port Angeles.
He cited the “disarming” way that McKeen offers his opinions.
“He could actually tell people to go to hell, and they would look forward to the trip,” Pilling quipped.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: July 24. 2012 5:42PM