Joe Scorcio officially becomes SeaTac City Manager until his 2018 retirement
By Jack Mayne
Joe Scorcio (pictured above) is no longer the Acting SeaTac City Manager – he became simply the City Manager after the City Council voted unanimously for the change at the Council meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 28).
The Council approved a resolution “confirming the continuation of his current salary and benefits,” along with additional “management days,” or paid days off in lieu of needed long hours to run the city.
“I want to thank the Council for that, I certainly want to thank the members of the pubic who said something…”
“It has been an interesting year,” he said, adding he never aspired for the job but he accepted when asked by the Council. He commended the “city leadership team who worked hard together … we have an outstanding group … and will continue to work very, very hard together.”
‘Title he deserves’
At the opening of the regular Tuesday Council session, SeaTac resident Virginia Olson said “please, please” vote to make Scorcio the formal city manager because of “all these things he’s stepped into – I think he’s done a fabulous, fabulous job.”
Vicky Lockwood, a resident and close observer of city finances, urged that the Council give Scorcio “the title he deserves.”
Resident Joel Wachtel agreed, “we have the right person in the right position, we just have the wrong title and I think Joe is the right man for the job.”
Resident Wendy Morgan said she wanted to commend Scorcio for “recognizing this is a diverse community and he shows respect for all of its residents.”
Scorcio was drafted from the city’s economic development job 11 months earlier after the previous, ill-fated Donny Payne was forced to quit after an incident ordering a city staffer to take actions she felt were inappropriate.
Soon the Council realized they may have found the answer to its need for a professional manager, but Scorcio had long before decided to retire in July 2018. He said then, and he has said several times since, that he would be happy to carry on leading the city staff but only until his retirement date.
Plan to find replacement
But since Scorcio will retire in July 2018, he and Human Resources Manager Vanessa Audett told the Council they have the beginnings of a plan to find his replacement.
Scorcio told the Council that he and Audett are facilitators developing a succession plan.
“But we are not decision makers, and we will not be decision makers in the process that we have outlined.”
He noted that the Council wanted “a meaningful and robust public input process into this selection.”
Select Councilmembers and mayors had long hired SeaTac city managers with little or no involvement by the public or the city staff.
The public does not hire the city manager, Scorcio said, but “you asked us to build in plural opportunities for the public to have input to the selection of the next city manager.”
Audett said the stakeholders in the city manager hiring process include the public, which she said included both residents and business owners, along with the Council, city department heads and the SeaTac city staff.
“We all have a vested interest in the process,” she said, noting they have worked backward from a proposed hire date in April 2018 and expect to begin the hiring process late in this coming November.
The Council’s job will be to define the manager’s job description.
“We think there is a great opportunity for the public to provide input on two particular areas,” said Scorcio. “One is basically the characteristics of the manager … which are different from the values and professional approaches to how they manage the business.”
The public can tell the city what values the new manager must have and what they looking for in the city manager role, he said.
Audette said once the profile of the desired candidate is done, the city then can plan how to advertise nationally for the candidates.
Staff would screen out only unqualified candidates – like a fast food worker, said Audette with a smile – but all the rest would go to the Council for screening, which could be partly in public, as in a town hall meeting or something that includes both Council and city residents, along some private interviews by Councilmembers, Audett said.
Once finalists are identified, the city would conduct background checks of the candidates and then a public deliberation and public decision rather than the closed-door private decision process used when Donny Payne was hired as acting manager.
Councilmember Tony Anderson asked if the city hired a consultant to come up with the process and Scorcio said Audett “is a professional right here so I didn’t have to hire a consultant, we have one.”
Councilmember Kathryn Campbell suggested a review of whether nearby cities require the manager to live in the city, noting SeaTac is only nine square miles in size.
State law requires the city manager to live in the city, but the Council can waive the requirement if they wish – or a person from outside the city could be offered the job with the requirement that the manager relocate in the city in a certain time period.
Audett said she has talked with other cities about what worked and what didn’t. Des Moines recently hired a new city manager and Burien is in the process of hiring a new manager to replace its recently fired manager.
Hourly pay law
Several members of the immigrant populations and labor unions representing many in SeaTac wanted the Council to push for workers at the airport to be paid the $15 minimum wage approved by city voters two years ago.
The Council later discussed whether the city had a proper auditing process in effect to be sure the city enforcing the wage requirement.
Abdulla Jama from the One America aid group, said there is a large immigrant community in SeaTac and neighboring cities who work at the airport and are asking for the city to enforce the $15 an hour minimum wage voted in by the city two years ago, adding that the city needs to support immigrants now under attack in the country.
The Council Tuesday night heard the story of a young woman who fled the repressive Horn of Africa country of Eritrea, crossed the Sudanese desert, managed to get to Athens, Greece, then to San Francisco and finally to Seattle and a job at the airport.
“Now I worry about President Trump. Even though I have been living legally in the United States for 15 years, I worry, I don’t feel comfortable in the United States.” She said she also is seeking the $15 minimum wage.
Others from Somalia and Ethiopia who fled via Kenya spoke of needing city help for the higher wage. Many said they were legal immigrants.
The Council gave preliminary approval of changes to the city code covering parking structures in the city center noting that it “will improve the feasibility of putting park and fly stalls into structures, while requiring that all new parking structures are well-designed, mixed use developments…”
The code additions also are to allow increased parking “for visitors and residents through parking restrictions and incentive-based programs” and fixing limits to park and fly uses.”
Mayor Michael Siefkes said he thought the changes were good because the city has been talking about changes for years without any action.
Final approval will be up to the Council at its next meeting in March.
The Council study session was asked by Senior Management Analyst Tim Ramsaur for permission to send a letter of intent to negotiate a new five-year contract with Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC), with a potential five-year extension.
The cost for 2017 is “around $137,000 and for 2018 that would be $153,000,” Ramsaur said.
The issue was moved to the next Council meeting’s consent agenda.
Tub Lake cleaned
Councilmember Pam Fernald asked Parks Operations Manager Mike Fitzpatrick to an update on Tub Lake, where she spearheaded cleanup in 2015 when thieves, squatters and drug users moved into the area in droves.
Fernald said it is now in the Parks Department daily routine to into the park and lake area “so nothing untoward is going on.”
He reminded the Council of the dumping ground and illegal activity in the North SeaTac Park and around Tub Lake.
The cleanup then was hard work, tedious and dangerous, said Fitzpatrick, but the area is mostly cleaned up and Fitzpatrick said he works with SeaTac Police to move out any people who move in to the lake area with tents and other camping gear.
The city is working with a mountain bike groups to develop some trails and bring other worthwhile activities to the lake area.
Red light cameras, a promotion
Mayor Siefkes said he wanted a Council committee to determine how the city can scrap the red light camera process.
“I want to get rid of all the red light cameras … I have never been a fan of red light cameras,” so he referred how, when or if it was a good idea, to the Council’s Public Safety and Justice Committee.
City Manager Scorcio said that Gwen Pilo has been the acting Finance and Systems Director for about a year and she and he have decided, “she is the right person for the job” as permanent finance director.
“She is a great member of the leadership team,” Scorcio told the Council’s study session.