Magazine article Public Management

Timmons Upbeat about Job Evaluation, City

Magazine article Public Management

Timmons Upbeat about Job Evaluation, City

Article excerpt

A bouquet of flowers with the simple note of "Thanks" recently arrived in the city manager's office in among the controversies du jour. For every petal on the flowers, Port Townsend (Washington) City Manager David Timmons could probably enumerate other controversies over his four and one-half years at the helm of city government. But he can recall only two times that anyone has sent flowers to note their gratitude.

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From siting the skateboard park to paying for the city hall annex, Timmons has often been at the center of the community dialogue. That he survived the first 18 months on the job surprised other city managers throughout Washington state, who laid odds that he wouldn't stay that long.

But Timmons still sits in the corner office at the Waterman & Katz Building. Recently, it was the golf-course controversy. Before that, it was the shipbuilding-company drama that consumed more than one meeting. Next week, chances are the wagging tongues will find some new controversy regarding city government or personnel.

JOB EVALUATION

Despite the stressful realities of Port Townsend governance, Timmons has once more received passing grades for his work from the city council. The councilors expressed concerns regarding communications, staff supervision, and long-range planning, but these concerns weren't censures.

Timmons said it was a fair evaluation, though, as with all evaluations, it tended to focus on the negative rather than acknowledge the positive. He said the council-manager form of government requires the two arms of government partnering, and the evaluation helped reveal strengths and weaknesses in that relationship.

The council summed up Timmons's performance in the evaluation dated December 16, 2003: "Thank you for your continued good work as the city manager of Port Townsend during this very challenging and productive year," then-Mayor Kees Kolff stated. "Last year, we also felt that you were performing well and at the same time identified three areas in which we had specific recommendations for improvement."

The first of these recommendations is for Timmons to improve communication between his administration and the council. Councilmembers would like him to send out more press releases, provide additional information in council packets, send memos to council "on relevant, timely developments," and communicate more with the council on issues of policy.

276 MEETINGS

Timmons said that one problem he and his staff have faced is trying to keep up with their duties while also staffing 276 meetings last year. These meetings are both citizen advisory boards and council committees, though the number doesn't include the multijurisdictional meetings among the city, port, county, state, and/or utility district. "The volume of work we're trying to complete is making it extremely difficult to do effective business," he said.

The recent innovation to place new initiatives in an "in-box," then review them every three months before taking them on, is designed to alleviate the problems associated with an ever-expanding list of projects and issues. Another change that Timmons has advocated and that the council is starting to facilitate is to restructure agendas and committees to cut the number of meetings.

"Many times, we'd find things on [a committee's] agenda that the staff didn't know about," he said. "Communication was breaking down in the environment we had. We have to change the way we do business." Timmons cited the sheer volume of 2,059 e-mails he received from October 2003 to mid-January 2004.

"That doesn't include phone calls, getting minutes written, and providing meeting agendas," he said. "The 276 meetings also don't include meetings with other governments."

Timmons has also advocated that the council hold single-topic workshops at which councilors won't be distracted by public comments on controversial subjects. …

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