by Doug Mah, Doug Mah and Associates, Thurston County Chamber Public Policy Director
2023 started with changes at the City of Lacey when City Manager, Scott Spence, left the area to accept a leadership position in Astoria, Oregon. Spence held the job for 11 years and worked for 23 years at the city. The Lacey City Council has retained a firm to help search for a new City Manager. We can expect a permanent appointment before the middle of the year.
The City of Tumwater will also look for a new City Administrator in 2023. After 13 years, current City Administrator John Doan announced his retirement effective April 2023. Like the City of Lacey, Tumwater Mayor Sullivan will be recruiting for a new City Administrator in 2023.
It is important to note that municipal Managers and Administrators serve at the pleasure of the elected officials. All appointed managers and administrators for public entities across the region are responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of the governmental organization. They are also responsible for implementing policies and programs approved by elected officials.
In 2023, leadership changes will also extend to elected officials. In addition to numerous “off-year” elections for city council members, we will have four newly elected positions on the November 2023 ballot.
Last year, voters passed measures to expand the Thurston County and Port of Olympia Commissions from three to five positions. In 2023, voters will elect two new County Commissioners and two new Port Commissioners from two newly created districts. Additional representation on the commissions was driven by population growth and a need for greater representation.
One common conflict facing the entire region will be around future land use decisions and how the region grows and develops.
Elected and appointed officials will need to balance the demands of a growing population and the concerns of existing residents and businesses. The tone and approach for engaging the community around growth and development will be critical and an area in which the Thurston Chamber and its Public Policy Division will remain actively involved.
Our new leaders, elected and appointed, will have several significant issues to address as they take office and assume their responsibilities. How they adjust to growth, an uncertain economy, and recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce are just a couple of issues that can impact the region’s business community. New leaders will need to quickly study and learn how local government can positively or negatively impact the business community. The Thurston Chamber is ready to help new community leaders get up to speed.