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Tacoma: McKinley leaves post as city’s public works director; Kingsolver named interim chief

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Feb. 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
February 5, 2013 7:59 pm

Tacoma Public Works Director Richard “Dick” McKinley has left his city job and taken a new temporary position with Tacoma Power, several city government and utility officials confirmed Tuesday.

In his place, City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced he will assign assistant public works director Kurtis Kingsolver to serve as interim director.  Kingsolver’s promotion takes effect Feb. 11.

While Broadnax said “it’s not atypical” for personnel changes to occur after new management comes into a city, he added Tuesday he didn’t push McKinley out.

“There was an opportunity for Dick over at TPU  and he wanted to pursue it,” said Broadnax, Tacoma’s manager of nearly a year. “And I was supportive of that.”

McKinley did not immediately respond Tuesday to The News Tribune’s requests for comment placed with both the city and TPU.

The personnel changes come after Broadnax met with Tacoma Public Utilities Director Bill Gaines last week.  By Monday afternoon, McKinley reported for work to Tacoma Power.

“He has been hired for a six-month stint to work on several projects here,” TPU spokeswoman Chris Gleason said Tuesday.

Hired in 2008 by former City Manager Eric Anderson, McKinley oversaw some of the city’s biggest projects, key public services and a disparate staff that one time swelled to more than 250 employees and included engineers, street maintenance crews, garbage collectors and building and land use planners, among others.

McKinley leaves the city job just as his department puts the finishing touches on a six-year, $57  million rehabilitation of the Murray Morgan Bridge.

But in recent months, Tacoma’s public works department underwent massive budget cuts and  reorganization. In mid-2012, Broadnax identified a $16 million shortfall in the department’s Streets Fund – a deficit separate and in addition to a $63 million gap facing the city’s general fund.

Largely blamed on Anderson’s short-term budget fixes, the streets fund’s troubles nonetheless led to public works taking the biggest hit of any city department during the city’s latest round of budgeting.  Nearly $104 million in cuts — a 45 percent reduction — slashed McKinley’s staff by about 80 employees for the next two years.

Calling for improved efficiency, Broadnax also reorganized public works by stripping out the city’s general government utilties — garbage, sewer and surface water — and placing them into a new stand-alone Environmental Services Department.

McKinley, who had previously spent 14 years heading public works departments in Bellingham and Walla Walla,  also recently interviewed for a Washington state Department of Transportation superintendent’s job, several city officials said Tuesday.

At Tacoma Power, McKinley will work on labor negotiations and analyze a recent assessment of the utility’s transportation and distribution group, Gleason said.

McKinley will take a slight pay cut in his new position, dropping from from $81.48 per hour ($169,478 annually) to $80.30 per hour ($167,024).

Meantime, Kingsolver, who declined to comment about the details of McKinley’s departure, said Tuesday he is excited for his new assignment.

“I’ve been with the city almost 23 years,” Kingsolver said. “I’m vested in moving this city forward and I’m absolutely thrilled that the city manager had the confidence to name me interim director.”

Broadnax said he’s not planning an executive search to replace McKinley at this time.

“I’m going to give Kurtis an opportunity to lead the department,” he said.  ”I’ll make my decision based on his performance.”

In his new position, Kingsolver, who makes $137,072 per year, will receive a fiver percent bump to $144,206 annually.

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