Monroe mayor fires economic development manager

MONROE — Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas is looking for more efficient ways to handle the city’s business after laying off its economic development manager.

Jeff Sax was notified that his job was being eliminated Jan. 3, a day after the new mayor took office. Sax earned $80,000 a year plus benefits.

The City Council found out about the mayor’s decision via email later that afternoon.

“The mayor came into office and the next day made a decision to fire someone,” Councilman Kevin Hanford said. “It was disappointing that he didn’t wait three more business days to present his thoughts to council.”

Thomas said he spent his first days in office reviewing city departments. He found a backlog in the planning department of more than 40 items, including permits, applications and code enforcement issues. Thomas, who is a senior legislative analyst with the Snohomish County Council, said he decided to reallocate the city’s resources to more efficiently process permits. That meant eliminating Sax’s job.

“I want to make certain we are able to serve people who want to do development,” the mayor said. “It’s one thing to talk the talk but it’s another to walk the walk.”

One idea Thomas intends to take to the City Council is a plan to change the economic development manager position to a community development director. The director could take on responsibilities such as processing permits and long-term planning in addition to the economic development role.

“There may be other solutions,” Thomas said.

Without staff to process applications and permits, Thomas said, economic development doesn’t happen.

Hanford credited Sax for his economic development efforts in Monroe.

“I was very happy with the amount of business he brought into the city,” he said.

Discount Tires and Five Guys Burgers and Fries are both soon establishing new businesses, according to City Administrator Gene Brazel.

Though Hanford found the mayor’s quick action a disappointment, he said he looks forward to working as a team in the future.

Thomas said expects to work with city staff and the council to find more effective ways of handling Monroe’s business over the next couple weeks.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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