Mayor explains why she switched city administrators

SNOHOMISH — When Mayor Linda Redmon took office in January, she did not intend to replace her city administrator, Redmon said in an interview Monday, Feb. 28.
Things shifted after the mayor assessed who would best implement her vision to serve a broader range of residents.
“What I want to focus on how we serve our population is looking at communication, more interactive communication,” Redmon said.
In the final week of February, Redmon informed Steve Schuller he would be let go and that she has appointed Heather Thomas as city administrator. The City Council will be asked to confirm Thomas at its March 15 meeting.
She offered Thomas the job “not too long ago,” Redmon said Feb. 28.
Thomas’s background includes policy implementation and public outreach, and for the past two years has had a front-row seat in the county’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know that she is tested, and know she performs under pressure,” Redmon said of Thomas.
Redmon knew Heather Thomas already. She’d seen Thomas in action at the Snohomish Health District as its Public and Government Affairs Manager.
The two had an informal working relationship already. Redmon represented the city on the Health District’s board of health; both Redmon and Thomas were part of Leadership Snohomish County’s class of 2018, a program course that strengthens leadership skills.
Bridging communities is “something I know she is really good at, and my primary focus,” Redmon said.
To bridge communities, Redmon would like to consider a variety of ways to get a wider range of residents engaged in city decisions.
She mentioned one way could be through asynchronous meetings, where someone can contribute without being present at a City Council meeting, to take input in advance of a decision.
Redmon said that at meetings, the City Council does not get to hear the voices of the full spectrum of the public when it comes to age range, education level and other demographics.
Meetings start at 6 p.m., and the timing might not fit for working families, said Redmon, who was City Council President before being elected mayor.
Thomas would also have a key role in shepherding the city’s upcoming funding for growing more affordable housing in town through its one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax approved by City Council.
Redmon foresees that the city’s Economic Development and Communications Director Wendy Poischbeg could work closely with Thomas. Poischbeg could orient more on business development while Thomas would focus on communicating city strategies, Redmon said.
“Having two people strongly skilled will be a benefit for the community,” Redmon said.
Redmon said she made an executive selection after discussing the change with advisers on the matter. It became clear she’d ultimately pick Thomas, so going through an executive search “would waste money and time,” Redmon said.
Before entering office, Redmon said in a November interview that her order of business would be to investigate what she described as disharmony within City Hall. On Feb. 28, Redmon denied that this had anything to do with the change.