LETTER: New SeaTac Mayor shares his thoughts on new Interim City Manager

[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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8 Responses to “LETTER: New SeaTac Mayor shares his thoughts on new Interim City Manager”
  1. Mike Condon says:

    Let’s see a man with honesty, integrity. a person I have personally worked with in the past and know his attention to detail in training and business budgeting. Along with his extensive background in government. Yes I think his fresh ideas will help the city of SeaTac thrive.Great success upon you, Mr. Payne!!

  2. jellybean says:

    You said “He continues to serve Washington State in the US Army National Guard. He is currently a field-grade officer”

    Is it possible he could get called away? Will he be able to commit as full time city manager and can reassure the citizens that there is no possible way he would have to leave for US Army National Guard?

    If it is a possibility to be called away, why take that risk and loose another city manager and be back to where we are now?

    • Peter Herbison says:

      @jelly bean:

      I think your comments might be taken more seriously if you could actually spell the word “lose” correctly.

      As far as the City of SeaTac’s choice for City Manager: OUTSTANDING.

      All the best Mr. Payne!

      • jellybean says:

        Oh you are so helpful. Thank you so much for your correction.

        Since I couldn’t get a answer, it looks like our new city manager will need to be gone 2 weeks in the summer and if he is called away, he is protected and gets the same position when he returns.

        He may have the qualifications of a great city manager but he has other commitments which will cause him to be gone?


        Units have a two week annual training (AT) period every year which is usually scheduled during the summer.

        if you are called to active service, your employer is required by law to allow you to return to the same job you had when you left.

        • jellybean says:

          One of the issues with Todd Cutts was he didn’t live in Seatac. Payne lives in Des Moines NOT SEATAC. Does it matter that Des Moines is across the street? Renton is down the hill? Favoritism already by new council…maybe?

  3. D Tapio says:

    It looks like the SeaTac City Council selected a very good city manager. Mr. Payne may even be one of the most qualified city managers the city has ever had.

    Congratulations, Mr. Payne, and I wish you success.

    Thank you for serving the City of SeaTac.

  4. Doug Hill says:

    The overwhelming mandate delivered in the past elections was no more “business as usual” and that we the citizens demanded to be governed from within and not from without (the nefarious outside interest groups that basically bought both influence and council seats). Will it be a bumpy ride for a while? I hope so. that means bold, fresh, creative and out of the box solutions will be utilized in addressing the challenges confronting us all. And it will require equally bold, creative and out of the box leadership.

    Welcome aboard Mr Payne-

  5. Janice Taylor says:

    There’s something to be said about people with military experience. I think of the late John Stanford and the tremendous job he did for the Seattle school district. Let’s give Mr. Payne a chance to show his stuff.