By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — Expect an announcement soon about Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon’s next second in command.
Deputy Executive Mark Soine left an upcoming vacancy when he resigned Monday, following sharp outside critiques of departments he managed. Soine is scheduled to exit his $161,000-a-year job June 3.
On Tuesday, Reardon wouldn’t say whether he was leaning toward replacing his top administrator with an internal candidate or somebody from the outside.
“I’m not leaving the position unfilled,” Reardon said. “I’m making an announcement next month as to who my deputy executive will be.”
Reardon also said he’s whittling down finalists for a permanent planning director — a hiring process that’s stretched for at least half a year.
The deputy executive’s job is mandated by the county charter. The job pays between $114,238 to $161,429 this year.
Qualities any government would want in a top manager are transparency about decisions, integrity and an ability to work well with others, said J. Paul Blake, president of the Evergreen Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, where he’s also a national council representative. Such skills serve the public well in a time of cutbacks in government.
Candidates should have an advanced degree in business, public administration or law. Years of on-the-job experience and even a sense of humor are musts. A grounding in new technologies, social justice and civic engagement are important.
“Whether you’re talking about Snohomish County or Douglas County, those are the types of things that would be typical,” Blake said.
Soine, 59, has worked for the county since 2005. Before that, he was an Everett city attorney and city councilman. Described by other county officials as a tough Reardon loyalist, he recently took the blame when there were lapses in departments Reardon oversees.
A nearly $1 million lawsuit filed Friday in King County also accused Soine of failing to manage problems at the county planning department where male employees allegedly subjected co-workers to sexual harassment and age discrimination. The suit was filed by Debbie McPherson, 59, a former planning department human resources manager who was laid off in late 2008. She is being represented by Seattle attorneys Mary Ruth Mann and James W. Kytle.
Reardon declined to say whether he asked Soine to leave. He gave a similar response about the resignation in February of Mark Knudsen, an attorney responsible for investigating workplace complaints whom Soine supervised.
Reardon said he asked for a $12,000 review of Knudsen’s department because what workers were saying publicly did not match what his own staff was telling him.
“It became abundantly clear that the people responsible for elements of that process had simply not done their job in an effective manner or even in an acceptable manner,” Reardon said.
Reardon has hired a temporary complaint investigator and said he’s working on filling the director’s position permanently. He said his priority was to make changes suggested in the review.
On Monday, after news of Soine’s resignation broke, Reardon pledged to work with other elected officials on challenges facing the county. Yet there was another communication hiccup.
County Council Chairman Dave Gossett said Tuesday morning that he had received no notice from the executive’s office about Soine’s leaving.
“At this point, everything I know I’ve read in the papers,” Gossett said.
Reardon said he was caught off guard because Soine was supposed to be handling those conversations.
“I thought he was making those phone calls,” Reardon said. “That didn’t happen.”
Reardon promised to make himself available to answer questions from other elected officials.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.