[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by new SeaTac Mayor Rick Forschler. This is only his opinion, and does not represent the City itself, nor the other City Councilmembers. It also does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]
Letter to the Editor by SeaTac Mayor Rick Forschler:
At a Special Council Meeting on January 19, 2016, the SeaTac City Council hired James Donald “Donny” Payne as Interim City Manager.
This was an important decision for the city at a crucial time.
The increase of taxes in 2015 and the projected future deficits was the “wake-up call” for many SeaTac citizens that we needed to do something different to reign-in the budget and taxes.
In 2009 we discovered that cities with a Council/Manager form of government often had a ballooning budget and outspent cities with a Mayor/Council form of government. By having a chief executive who lives within the community cities are more efficient and operate on a lower budget.
Having local leadership also increases the motivation to address local needs. This is especially important in the City of SeaTac with its close proximity to the Sea-Tac International Airport and all the external impacts that brings upon our neighborhoods.
Having city leadership with “skin in the game” in the community makes a difference, both in the cost and quality of services.
This was my reason for trying to find a City Manager who lives within our community — the motivation for addressing local needs is stronger and the potential for doing so within a reasonable budget is much greater.
In terms of actual qualifications, Mr. Payne has extensive education and progressively increasing leadership experience in both business and government. He has an associate’s degree from Highline College, a bachelor’s degree in Law and Justice from Central Washington University, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Government at the University of Washington.
Mr. Payne has 13 years of corporate experience in the restaurant industry, working his way up to general manager. He hired and managed a diverse work force, oversaw a multi-million dollar budget, conducted performance reviews, and managed the day-to-day operations of the business. He also developed process improvement programs for employees, which included career path and cross training functions that was implemented in 5,200 stores worldwide.
He later worked for the City of Seattle as a Police Officer in which his duties included pro-active crime prevention, enforcing municipal codes, community policing and outreach.
He became a commissioned officer in the US Army and has served in Afghanistan training and advising their national police. He is currently a field-grade officer and has served in a variety of leadership capacities. He continues to serve Washington State in the US Army National Guard.
Planning, budgeting, and scheduling for military projects are very analogous to municipal experience. They often construct buildings, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure, very much like projects in cities. Project management skills, negotiating, and contracting are virtually the same in both cases. Donny is a successfully military leader, with actual experience applicable to city government.
Mr. Payne has extensive training and experience with security and safety and an additional Masters in Emergency Preparedness and Response. Donny could potentially be our strongest City Manager ever, toward improving public safety in SeaTac.
I believe all four of the gentlemen we interviewed could have been capable city managers. Other City Council members can speak for themselves, but in my opinion, Donny was and is the best qualified option to meet the current needs of SeaTac.
We are very fortunate to have found such a talented and capable leader within our local community. Mr. Payne brings new energy and a fresh perspective at an important time for SeaTac.
– Rick Forschler
Mayor, City of SeaTac
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