Deputy Pierce County Executive Kevin Phelps said Wednesday that he has withdrawn as a candidate for Lakewood city manager, leaving Mountlake Terrace City Manager John Caulfield as the lone finalist to lead the daily operations of Pierce County’s second-largest city.
Phelps, who lives in Lakewood, told The News Tribune he notified Mayor Don Anderson of his decision Wednesday morning. He said he had no plans to look for another job at this time, calling the Lakewood position a unique opportunity.
Anderson said the council still planned to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday and he anticipated it would vote to extend Caulfield a contract offer and then convene in executive, or closed, session to discuss contract terms. Caulfield couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Caulfield said Wednesday afternoon he “would very much like to be the next Lakewood city manager.”
Anderson said he was disappointed by Phelps’ decision.
“Kevin is an outstanding candidate,” he said. “I know he’d do great things for the city of Lakewood.”
But he added all three of the finalists who interviewed Wednesday would do “an outstanding job.”
Phelps said he came to the conclusion after a lengthy closed-door interview with the City Council on Wednesday evening that his skills and experience didn’t match what the council was looking for.
“At the end of the day, I wasn’t the best fit for them,” he said.
The council emerged from their closed-door meeting and Anderson asked each member to whittle the three finalists down to two. All seven members named Caulfield. Four members, Anderson, Paul Bocchi, Helen McGovern-Pilant and Jason Whalen, named Phelps, and three, Marie Barth, Michael Brandstetter and Mary Moss, selected Matthew Fulton, former city manager of Coon Rapids, Minn. The council was supposed to meet Thursday to chose between Caulfield and Phelps.
Phelps said he was “at peace” with the decision and looked forward to continuing to work on the development of a new county administrative building and planning for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015.
Asked if Fulton could still be brought into the mix during the meeting, Anderson said he couldn’t speculate and added “that’s not something that anyone has proposed.”
The City Council had named six finalists for the job, following a recommendation from its consultant Greg Prothman. Four of them withdrew, including two who accepted city manager jobs elsewhere.
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