In January 2006, San Juan County began a new form of government, the home rule charter approved by voters in November 2005. The next step was to find someone to help implement the change.
The county hired David Goldsmith to bridge the gap while they conducted a job search for the permanent county administrator. The county was very fortunate in its choice, according to county officials and staff contacted for this article.
Councilmember Bob Myhr said, "David was an excellent pro tem person. He was the ideal guy to help us through this transitional period."
Health and Community Services Director John Manning said, "David had been through a similar transition in Jefferson county. He has set up systems (here) so when the permanent administrator comes in the busy work will be done. It was the most important thing he could do."
Councilmember Alan Lichter said, "David helped us enormously with the transition. He gave us an idea of what an administrator can do and accomplish with the council. We've both been feeling our way through, focusing on the external aspects of the transition to the charter. We haven't had the chance to focus on the possibilities of working as partners. It's tremendously exciting."
County Juvenile Service Director Tom Kearny said, "I really appreciated David. He understood the issues we faced. The transition period could have been difficult a time, but David was very helpful. He understood and grasped the issues we faced."
Having a county administrator handling day-to-day operations has been a postive experience for the county staff interviewed Wednesday. Stephens said, "For the first time we had one person to go to for all of our operational issues."
Community Development and Planning Department Director Ron Henrickson said, "I believe David has done an admirable job as the first county administrator pro-tem. He has worked effectively with department managers and staff to begin to address many of the issues facing county government, both large and small. He cares about people and making government work for the citizens. It has been a great pleasure to work under his leadership."
Deputy Civil Prosecutor Karen Vedder said, "In our department, it's been a real improvement in our ability to function, to have one person who knows how the departments function together. We can sit down with just that department and the administrator. David has an unusual combination of congeniality, brightness, experience and knows his stuff. He'll be a hard act to follow."
Former Jefferson county manager offered interim county job
David Goldsmith of Port Townsend was offered the job of Administrator Pro Tempore for San Juan County. The councilmembers interviewed two candidates Monday and made their choice Tuesday morning.
Goldsmith will be paid $8,000 per month plus airfare and lodging. He will start work Jan. 23, 2006.
Two candidates for interim administrator interviewed
The three county Councilmembers will choose between two candidates - Dick Thompson and David Goldsmith - for administrator pro tem. Under the new county charter the decision is supposed to be made Jan. 10, 2006. Both candidates have a long history of working in government positions.
Goldsmith retired in 2005 after 30 years with Jefferson county including several years as county administrator. His experiences in that county mirror many of the issues San Juan County is facing. Growth management issues - like SJC, Jefferson county opted into the Growth Management Act. The creation of an administrator position took place during Goldsmith's three decades with the county.
Thompson hasn't had any experience with county government but has extensive experience at the city and state level. He served as Booth Gardner's chief of staff and was budget director during Gary Locke's first term. He currently does consulting work with the Seattle Seahawks and is chairing the committee reviewing the feasibiilty of a Nascar racetrack in Washington.
Asked about his availability, he said he would be in New Zealand and Australia between Feb. 13 and March 13. The interim position is expected to last four months.
Thompson said he felt with good communications, overcoming the distance is workable. During the time he served as interim University of Washington Athletic Director after Barbara Hedges left, he went on a 59-day trip to Alaska. With the use of satellite phones he was able to do his work as athletic director.
Goldsmith is available except for the next two weeks. He sees the interim position "as a bridge. So when the new person comes in, the mechanics of how the county operates internally are already set in place. When the person gets here they can hit the ground running."
Neither candidate is interested in anything but the interim position. The council will meet in executive session Tuesday afternoon to discuss the candidates.