About the City Manager’s compensation…

As a business person, I’m appreciative of the questions we have been hearing about the City Manager’s compensation, and the extra investment we’ve made in having him move to Kirkland. When considering a compensation package, in my view it’s important to consider:

  • The responsibilities of the position.
  • What a similar position would pay in the private sector.
  • Comparable packages available in the market.  We must ensure that we attract the very best applicants.
  • The qualifications of the candidate in light of the particular challenges he will face.

Our City manager is the caretaker of public resources and public funds.  He is in charge of a $449 million budget and 450 employees.  He must attract and retain the very best team to serve the citizens of Kirkland.  He is held responsible for making the community’s vision a reality, from public safety, transportation, economic vitality, top notch utilities, parks and neighborhoods and a clean environment.  He must have a healthy relationship with seven Council members, and six bargaining units.  He must create a culture of public service at City Hall.  He must protect the citizen’s investment in the city’s infrastructure and plan boldly for the future.

In the private sector, a person in the position I have described would be compensated well in excess of the package that I supported for the position.  The compensation is within the range of what other City Managers in our region are paid, in cities of similar size, and was supported by the Council, unanimously.

Kirkland deserved the best City Manager possible and we went after the best.  Mr. Triplett earned a BA from Stanford, his MPA from Harvard and has served this region  for 17 years.  Before coming to Kirkland he ran King County, a $5 billion dollar government with 16,000 employees.

On June 1 2011, Kirkland will double in size.  Our mandate is to provide comparable services to the entire city, without doubling our overhead expense.  To meet this extraordinary challenge, by choosing Mr. Triplett, we identified an individual uniquely qualified to help us.  We have already realized benefits from his extensive career with King County and his regional experience.

Mr. Triplett came in last July and closed a 7 million dollar budget gap  with only a handful of layoffs and while retaining our AAA credit rating.  He has created the real possibility of Kirkland purchasing the Eastside Rail Corridor within the city limits to control its own destiny.  He has proposed significant regulatory and fee reforms to allow businesses to grow here and a Totem Lake Action Plan to revitalize our sleeping economic giant.

Mr. Triplett has been concerned from the beginning about minimizing his financial impact to the City.  After negotiating his initial salary he voluntarily reduced it by the same 3.4% pay cut that other City employees were taking in 2010.  We originally offered him a housing relocation bonus and he did not accept it, hoping the housing market would rebound to allow him to simply “trade across” into Kirkland.  The city owns a house that would suit the Triplett family, and there is a window of opportunity during which this house will be available.  We were hoping to establish the family in Kirkland at a time when the Triplett children could enroll in the Lake Washington school district in time for the new school year.

The funds identified were one-time savings realized during the period we operated with at interim City Manager. If the housing market does not recover in the next year, the Triplett family can continue to lease the property from the City.    The money has not been given to Mr. Triplett in a lump sum but only authorized as a $1995 monthly payment that is paid back to the City as rent.  When his house is sold, the allowance ends and we know Mr. Triplett wants this to occur as quickly as possible. We believe this a reasonable and pragmatic approach.

State law requires that the City manager live in the city he serves.  This requirement was temporarily waived at the time of his employment, but the benefits to having the City Manager live in Kirkland are beyond question.

I’d be happy to answer any further questions about this subject, and invite you to contact me.

Amy Walen City of Kirkland Councilmember awalen@ci.kirkland.wa.us 425-381-1909