Dave Conrad, the borough’s facilities director and administrative officer, has been named acting interim manager after Manager Michael Powers was terminated last Friday following a 4-3 vote by the borough Assembly.
The Assembly already had decided not to renew Powers’ contract, but he was going to finish the term of his current contract, which ran through May 22.
Borough Mayor Bill Roberts said the Assembly will discuss how to move forward in its search for a manager at a specially called meeting on Thursday following its work session.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to hire a manager in less than four or five months at the earliest,” Roberts told KDM.
The idea, he said, will be to advertise among the Alaska Municipal League and national-level publications and platforms.
Roberts said it may be a hard road ahead in terms of recruitment. In addition, Conrad’s duties already require a lot of attention. The director of facilities and maintenance is responsible for all buildings and property owned by the borough, including major capital improvement projects required on school buildings.
“Dave has a full plate to begin with, and we can’t expect him to deal with both facilities and the manager’s position on his back for an extended period of time,” Roberts said.
The borough has been without a manager before. Roberts served as the interim manager for about four months in 2016 while he still worked at the borough prior to his retirement.
“It was a challenge to recruit back then,” he said. “They asked me when I was the administrative officer, and I was fortunate because I had someone in my regular job as assessor to take over efficiently.”
Roberts noted that the borough manager’s job is a busy one. And recruiting, Roberts said, likely will be difficult.
“It’s probably not a buyer’s market right now,” Roberts said. “I know it’s truly difficult to find municipal workers, especially in the upper echelons, that are truly qualified. On top of that, they are going to have to uproot and come to Kodiak. Some people come here and love it, some hate it.”
He said the borough could get lucky and find someone quickly, but he estimated a longer period. The normal procedure, he said, includes virtual or phone interviews followed by flying candidates here for in-person interviews and tours.
“It means finding people who are qualified and are a fit. This includes people in Alaska,” Roberts said. “You have people who apply for the job who really have never run any kind of municipality or have that true experience. There’s a difference between running a municipality and running the day-to-day decisions.”
The Assembly voted to terminate Powers following an executive session evaluation of Powers and a re-ordering of the agenda last Thursday. The Assembly was originally set to discuss consideration of notice for Powers’ contract as well as a transition plan and recruitment.
Assembly Member James Turner requested the items be moved to after the executive session.
Once the Assembly emerged from executive session, Assembly Member Geoff Smith made the motion to terminate Powers. In the 4-3 vote, Assembly members James Turner, Joe Delgado and Julie Kavanaugh voted not to terminate Powers. Smith, along with Assembly members Scott Arndt, Dennis Symmons and Aimee Williams voted to terminate him.
Powers will be paid an amount equal to six months’ pay and benefits, plus any accrued annual leave.
The Assembly had previously decided not to extend or offer Powers a new contract following an executive session evaluation in May. Powers told the Kodiak Daily Mirror in June that Roberts had informed him of the Assembly’s decisions.
“It’s been a real pleasure working here in Kodiak,” Powers said in a brief interview Friday with KDM. “I have worked with some really great people in the borough and I will miss them, their professionalism and their camaraderie. I wish them all the best.”
Powers said his next steps will likely be outside Kodiak, but for now it includes more job hunting, putting his house on the market and preparing his family to move.
“Only God knows my next steps, but I don’t see us staying in Kodiak. We’ll probably be leaving in the near future,” Powers said. “I’ve been job hunting for the past few months because the Assembly made it clear they weren’t going to renew my contract. I will continue to do that and then decide what the future holds. “
Powers said he was not surprised by Thursday’s vote.
“I totally expected it,” he said. “When they changed the format of how they were doing evaluations the handwriting was on the wall. It was a very emotional-based process as opposed to focusing on getting the job done.”
During the course of regular meetings and work sessions that have happened since it became known that Powers’ contract would not be renewed, he began laying out a tentative transition plan/timeline for new manager recruitment.
Revisions were made to the manager’s job description and advertising material, but all of that was paused during an Aug. 19 meeting when the Assembly discussed whether it had actually disclosed publicly the action it had taken not to renew Powers’ contract.
Turner additionally commented at the Aug. 19 meeting that neither the Assembly nor manager had taken any action. The borough, Turner suggested, could continue to employ Powers as manager through a few ways, such as month-to-month or on a yearly basis instead of the standard three-year contract.