Despite having two candidates lined up for community development director and an offer on the table, Astoria is once again searching for someone to fill the job.
Kirsten Sackett, the community development director for Ellensburg, Washington, and Portland architect Stuart Emmons participated in a public meet-and-greet event for the post in early May.
City Manager Brett Estes offered the job to one of the candidates, but would not specify who. The offer was accepted, but later declined for personal reasons, Estes said.
Emmons confirmed the job offer went to Sackett.
While Emmons was disappointed not to be selected or considered after Sackett declined the offer, he still plans to move to Astoria.
“(Astoria’s) got a lot of good things and a lot of challenges and I want to be a part of it,” he said. “I think I’ll be fine.”
The community development director post has been vacant for more than a year and a half. There have been three extensive recruitment pushes to find a new director since Kevin Cronin left in September 2017, according to Estes.
The city worked with a recruitment agency, The Prothman Co., to find Sackett and Emmons and will now reopen the process to draw on a new pool of candidates.
The city is diving back into the search with an increased salary range in hand.
On Monday, the City Council approved an update to the position’s salary schedule, increasing the possible salary range from $85,185 to $103,543 to $89,239 to $108,470.
Estes hopes the increase to the salary range will attract new candidates, including those who may have been hesitant to apply because of pay. In working with Prothman, Estes was told the range the city had been offering was low and the city might want to consider a more competitive salary.
“It has been difficult to attract fully qualified candidates who meet the unique requirements of the city of Astoria within the current salary range and to allow for increases,” Susan Brooks, the city’s finance director, noted in a memo to city councilors.
The City Council also extended contracts with former city planners Rosemary Johnson and Mike Morgan and with Robin Scholetzky, of UrbanLens Planning. The consultants have been assisting on day-to-day planning activities, planning permits, code updates and special projects.
Johnson’s contract was at $100,000; the increase approved on Monday brings the total to $175,000. Morgan’s contract was just below $50,000 and was increased to $75,000. Scholetzky’s contract was $30,000. The increase brings it up to $45,000.
“I think this last process was a good process,” Estes said about the recruitment of Sackett and Emmons. “We were presented with a great set of candidates. I’m hopeful that we will continue to get another good set of applicants.”
He offered the job to a person he felt would have been a good fit for the city.
“We look at that as a success,” he said. “Unfortunately, it did not work out for personal reasons.”
Estes had held off on immediately replacing a city planning position, hoping to involve a new director. Now, he plans to go ahead and begin reviewing the applications he received and schedule interviews earlier than planned.