The city council decided Monday night to hire the executive search firm Prothman and Associates of Seattle to find an interim city manager to serve through September 2009.
The council will contract with Prothman, which also is searching for the city's new public works director, to search for a permanent city manager.
Recruitment would begin in July with interviews in August and a projected start date in September.
The council also plans to hold an "action-planning retreat" with the interim city manager and a second retreat following a management audit in the summer of 2009 to develop a strategic plan for the new city manager.
The costs for the proposed contract with Prothman will be considered at the council's Nov. 24 meeting.
The vote was 4-1 with City Councilor Erik Erichsen voting "no" and City Councilor Ken Hays abstaining. City Councilor Susan Lorenzen was absent.
The move came after two unexpected and emotionally draining events hit the city in the three days prior to Monday night's meeting.
First, two of the three city manager candidates interviewed over the weekend rejected the city's contract offers and the third withdrew from consideration.
Then interim city manager Robert Spinks announced Monday night he will require major surgery to remove a noncancerous but potentially dangerous growth in his left ear on the auditory nerve leading to the brain.
The city manager search process that began following Bill Elliott's termination in May now returns to square one following what had been a promising chapter last week.
The city held a public reception on Friday at the Sequim Transit Center to introduce the three city manager finalists who had been chosen from nine semifinalists.
They were Alan Lanning, 50, former city manager of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Curt Carver, 53, city manager of Inverness, Ill.; and Jim Southworth, 60, city administrator of Monroe in Snohomish County.
The reception was followed by interviews with the full council and two other interview panels and included negotiations that lasted into Saturday evening.
But the council couldn't agree on a compensation package with two of the three candidates and the third one withdrew from consideration.
Ruth Marcus asked if the candidates were aware of the advertised salary range for the position.
Hays said one of the applicants knew the salary range but wanted the high end of it as well as other compensation that would not be fiscally wise for the city or fair to other city staff.
Spinks said rather than being disappointing, it was "gratifying" to watch the council negotiating with the city manager candidates.
"It probably works to their credibility that they were working together more than they have on other major projects," he said.
Spinks also said he hopes the council takes that same unified approach to this city manager search recommendation, which is the product of the city's entire leadership team.
Mayor Laura Dubois concurred with Hays' reservations at not having more time to review Spinks' proposal but agreed to support it.
"I'd agree if I didn't have a tumor in my head and a lieutenant (Sheri Crain) on limited duty," Spinks said.
City councilors Bill Huizinga and Walt Schubert said the city couldn't waste any more time looking for a permanent city manager.
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