Kodiak’s new borough manager will come from Valdez, following a unanimous vote by the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly during a Friday special meeting.
The new manager, Roxanne Murphy, is currently the assistant city manager for Valdez. She was one of six people interviewed at the start of November from a pool of 12 applicants.
According to Borough Mayor Bill Roberts, Murphy will start her new position in a few weeks. Her contract will be for three years, ending Nov. 12, 2024.
Murphy’s contract stipulates an annual salary of $130,000. After a six-month period, the assembly will review Murphy’s performance as manager and has the option to increase her salary by 2.5%, followed by a second 2.5% increase a year after her hire based on satisfactory performance.
Other perks include health insurance and sick leave, and a vehicle for business use. The borough may also compensate Murphy for moving expenses.
According to Roberts, the decision to hire Murphy was an easy one.
“She blew everyone’s doors off,” Roberts said. “In her application, she was well-qualified and had plenty of experience.”
Roberts said she was the last of the six candidates to be interviewed, and he called her interview “quite excellent.”
“When the assembly deliberated, they decided to offer her the job because they knew she was their No. 1 pick,” Roberts said. “The other option would have been to get some more people up here so we have someone to compare her to, because the other candidates didn’t quite match her.”
Roberts said the initial hiring timeline was expected to be much longer, including inviting prospective final candidates to Kodiak for a tour and in-person interview.
But Roberts said Murphy was head-and-shoulders above everyone else. The borough offered to fly Murphy to Kodiak, “but she said she has seen Kodiak before and took the job offer,” Roberts said.
Murphy will replace former borough manager Michael Powers. In September, the assembly terminated Powers’ employment. Prior to that, in May, Powers was informed by Roberts that the assembly would not renew his contract, which would have ended in May.
After being notified, Powers set up a transition timetable to start recruiting a new manager.
A FEW OBJECTIONS
During Friday’s special meeting, a few residents objected to hiring Murphy specifically or to the way the recruitment and hiring process was handled.
Resident Betty MacTavish criticized both the process and the assembly’s decision. MacTavish said that a past assembly rushed through a similar process when hiring Powers in 2016.
“We took out an ad why Powers shouldn’t be hired and had members of his former city on line but were refused to be heard at that particular meeting,” MacTavish said. “And what did we get? Michael Powers.”
MacTavish attempted to make accusations against Murphy but was cut off by Roberts.
Murphy stated in her resume that she was a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe in Deming, Washington.
“If you are going to attack someone at that podium, I will stop you right now,” Roberts told MacTavish. “You’ve already attacked the past manager and now you are attacking the manager we’re about to hire. You either be respectful or sit down.”
MacTavish was also critical of the hiring process, which included a series of special meetings. The borough conducted its special meetings to interview the candidates on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, and posted the videos online on Nov. 8.
The borough again met in a special meeting following its work session on Tuesday at the Kodiak Island Borough School District Central Office. The decision to meet on Tuesday was in part because of Veterans Day, and the location because Bayside Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting room was being used by Fire Protection District No. 1’s board of directors.
“If you would open it up to the public then the public wouldn’t be suspicious of you,” MacTavish said. “But they are suspicious because you are moving dates, times and locations, so how can we respect you if you’re moving everything?”
Resident Judi Kidder questioned the hiring process.
“I just got notice of this special meeting and the link was not available online until very recently,” Kidder said. “There was conflicting information about where meetings were, with multiple locations always jumping around.”
Kidder also said information about the manager applicants wasn’t made available to the public in an easy location and made it difficult for people to research and make their own decisions.
“It’s a disservice to us as people who pay the taxes that fund all of the borough’s positions,” Kidder said. “We elected you to represent us and when you cut us out of the process — not intentionally — procedurally … it doesn’t help.”
The borough clerk’s office posted resumes and cover letters for all 12 applicants in advance of an Oct. 28 special meeting, where the assembly met to discuss who its finalists would be for first-round interviews.
She noted the last time the borough hired a manager, the process was more public with multiple meetings and candidates.
“There were a lot of red flags and someone was hired at the last minute, so it was a trainwreck,” Kidder said.
Roberts, following Friday’s meeting, told KDM that the assembly has been as transparent as possible in the recruitment and hiring process.
“All of the resumes of the 12 people were posted online, with redacted information such as addresses,” Roberts said. “We posted the Zoom interviews online on Monday (Nov. 8) and kept them. The reason we kept those quiet was because we didn’t want any one candidate to be able to see another Zoom interview and know the questions being asked.”
Roberts acknowledged the hiring process went faster than expected, but said it was justified.
“We want to get a manager on board,” Roberts said. He also said that Dave Conrad, the interim borough manager, “is doing a great job.”
“But Dave Conrad doesn’t particularly want the job permanently,” Roberts said. Conrad is the borough’s full-time director of engineering and facilities and administrative officer, or acting borough manager.
When Conrad was tapped to serve as interim manager, he provided some conditions, including serving for a term up to 90 days, with a performance review before going back to his normal position and the option to remove himself as interim manager at any time.
Roberts said the decision to hire the manager was ultimately the assembly’s decision.
“We are elected and one of the things we have to do is hire a manager and a clerk,” Roberts said. “We hired the best manager that we thought was out there.”