Pending contract negotiations, Christopher Dennis will be new city manager

By Jack Mayne

Christopher J. Dennis was voted unanimously to become the new SeaTac city manager to replace retiring Joe Scorcio at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

The city will now work on a potential contract for Dennis’ service with final approval expected at the Council’s Sept. 11 meeting, once a contract has been agreed upon by both parties.

Dennis was the only candidate nominated by Councilmember Joel Wachtel, who said he was “a unique individual.” All members of the Council echoed his selection and no other candidate was nominated by members, nor were there any adverse comments from Councilmembers about Dennis.

Dennis is recently retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of captain. He is from New Smyrna Beach, Fla, is a graduate of Auburn University, and has a master of arts in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Highlighting nearly three decades of afloat and ashore service, Dennis served as the commanding officer of: Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy; Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 46; and the University of Michigan Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Wachtel said that running the Italy base at Sigonella – which is located in eastern Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean and covers 10,000 square miles – is akin to running a large city. Councilmember Pam Fernald said Dennis ran the city using “their own language.”

Selection process
Scorcio said that the Council specified an open process where the community as well as the Council got to meet with candidates for city manager as well as “a great deal of time” for Councilmembers to meet the final candidates. He commended Human Resources manager Vanessa Audett for “her organizational skills bringing this process to fruition.” He also lauded the members of the Council for “going into a difficult territory” in being heavily involved in the recruiting and evaluating of city manager candidates.

Later, Councilmember Wachtel also lauded Audett’s “amazing job” in putting the process together, and Councilmember Pam Fernald said she “was satisfied in every” way with the process that the candidates “lauded Vanessa and the city for having such a wonderful process.”

He said the city received 43 applications and initial candidate interviews took place on July 18, resulting in a list of four finalists. That two-day meeting, Aug. 1 and 2, consisted of candidates meeting with the Council. Each of the four finalists spent 90 minutes being interview by Councilmembers and 45 minutes meeting with SeaTac department heads and another 45 minutes with the city manager’s staff. At the end of the day the candidates spent time with SeaTac citizens “answering questions of the public.”

The next day the candidates were questioned by the city staff, he said, then “stuck them all in a van, drove them around the city … showed them the things we are very proud of” and then brought them back for two hours with Scorcio and a brief final meeting with members of the Council.

A selection of one candidate would not be “confirmation,” he said. That won’t occur until the next Council meeting, which will be in mid-September and after the city and the selected candidate agree on an employment contract between the council and candidate.

Sheriff retarts gang unit
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said her first seven months as sheriff has meant a lot of internal focus in reshaping the department to her standards, but now she is ready to focus externally, including the SeaTac Police which is a contracted service from the county. The SeaTac department, under Chief Carl Cole, is adding seven new county deputies to the city police force.

Johanknecht said she was working toward reestablishment of the gang unit starting with a sergeant and two detectives “who will reach out to our regional partners … to add people either part-time or full-time … and build it out from there, hopefully 20 detectives from across the area.”

Retirements, promotions
The Council heard from retiring Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Deputy Fire Chief Brian Wiwel who served in many positions, including chief of the SeaTac Fire Department before it was merged with the then Kent Regional Fire Authority.

Scorcio said that Wiwel has spend his entire 38-year career working in and for the people of SeaTac.

“He told me he got one fire department job and the departments kept changing and Brian kept going with them and never left town and that’s pretty amazing,” Scorcio said. “There is literally not a job in the fire service that he has not held.”

In other action the Council authorized an agreement between the Highline School District and the city for a School Resource Officer at Tyee Educational Complex and Chinook Middle School, earlier held up by concerns about the cost to the city.

Council also authorized Scorcio to enter into an interlocal agreement with the state Department of Transportation for the completion of construction of the State Route 509 Completion Project.

Scorcio introduced newly promoted Civil Engineer 2 Colum Lang and promoted geographic information system (GIS) Project Coordinator Anna Yost.

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