Mountlake Terrace hires new city manager

  • Jenny Lynn Zappala<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:45am

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — John Caulfield, deputy city manager of University Place, will be the next city manager of Mountlake Terrace, the City Council decided Monday. The vote was unanimous. His first day will be Jan. 9.

“It is a wonderful feeling. It is an honor and privilege to be appointed as the next city manager,” Caulfield said. “I am grateful for council’s confidence in me. I look forward to working with the community, the council and staff. It is a tremendous opportunity.”

Caulfield’s financial expertise, youthful enthusiasm and experience redeveloping University Place — especially Town Center — will benefit the city of Mountlake Terrace, according to Mayor Jerry Smith.

The city attorney is finishing the contract, which the council expects to approve on Dec 5, but it is a formality, the mayor said. The position’s salary range is $95,000 to $115,00.

“I think he is going to be a real asset to us. He has some good ideas,” Smith said. “We can’t wait to get him here.”

Caulfield, 40, said he was attracted to Mountlake Terrace because of the city’s challenges, especially redeveloping the downtown area and stabilizing the city’s budget. He has experience tackling similar situations.

“With the issues facing Mountlake Terrace, I think I can bring some technical expertise,” he said. “I was so impressed with the staff. Meeting them, my expectations were further expanded on. The city council, I was very impressed with them. They know where they want to go and they know where the priorities are. They know where the issues are and seem willing to work on them. I think I can be an asset.”

The council is apparently equally impressed by Caulfield’s experience. His career in city government got a kick start with Federal Way, where he lives. Starting in 1991, he moved from an accounting technician to senior financial analyst in less than two years.

In 1997, Caulfield became the finance director at University Place, a city just south of Tacoma, which incorporated in 1995. The city is roughly eight square miles in size with about 30,000 residents.

Mountlake Terrace has been looking for a new city manager since Connie Fessler’s resignation in April. A majority vote of the council forced Fessler, who managed the city for eight years, to resign. Jerry Osterman, a retired city manager, has been filling in since then.

Applications for the Mountlake Terrace job were received from 35 candidates in 19 states. Of those, about a dozen already work in Washington state. The city hired Greg Prothman Company to screen the applicants and a 17-candidate list was given to the city council on Oct. 13.

A good listener, facilitator

Caulfield said his first priority will be to listen to everyone.

“I think I am a good listener. I think the next city manager needs to be a good listener to sort through the opinions that may be out there,” he said. “My intuition is telling me that everyone is in agreement of what the goal of the vision is. I think it is a matter of determining what process or path to take.”

When asked about his management style, he described himself as a “facilitator.”

“I see my primary role is to act as a liaison between the city council and the city staff,” Caulfield said. “My role is to ensure that the staff has the resources they need to implement the council’s goals. That allows me to focus on being a consensus builder. It allows me to be an advocate for citizen participation. I think that is a key component of city government.”

Caulfield’s most recent experience with redevelopment is at University Place. City leaders drafted a neighborhood plan and design standards for an 80-acre site, known as Town Center. University Place purchased about 15-acres piece-by-piece and sought a partnership with a private developer to redevelop the site, Caulfield said.

The city hoped the bold move would encourage nearby property owners to rebuild or upgrade their own locations, Caulfield said. It is apparently working because there are about five active redevelopment projects in University Place. Most recently, the Greenfirs Shopping Center opened new retail space, including a new Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store, Great Harvest Bread Company and Cake, a specialty women’s apparel store.

The key is fostering relationships among the city, developers, property owners, and — most importantly — citizens, Caulfield said.

“The role of the city is to be a leader and to ultimately turn it over to the private sector and let them go with it,” Caulfield said. “(University Place is) at that transition point.”

Before entering city government, Caulfield worked as an accountant at an engineering firm. He also served in the U.S. Army as a ranger and earned the rank of sergeant.

Caulfield earned a master’s of business administration at Seattle University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Boston University.

As a volunteer, Caulfield, who is a Tacoma Narrows Rotary Club member and former auction chair and a University Place School District volunteer. He is also treasurer of the University Place Sister Cities Association, which is establishing a sister-city relationship with the city of Jiang You, China.

“I love it. It is an opportunity to give back and to also stay connected in the community. I really enjoy doing it. It gives me a lot of satisfaction. It allows me to stay connected with the community.”

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