Photo by Eric Mathison
Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze explains the property tax levy lid lift on the November ballot at a community information meeting.

Update 2: Normandy Park city manager denies he is bailing out because of city’s financial woes

Burien's Greenberg headed to Mercer Island but will be back for wine festival

Two prominent Highline city staffers are leaving for other cities.

Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze was selected Wednesday night, Sept. 19 to become the city manager of Bainbridge Island. The town has a population of 23,000, considerably larger than Normandy Park’s 6,000.

While Schulze is going west to Bainbridge Island, Burien Community Director Scott Greenberg is headed east to another island, Mercer Island where he will be Development Services director.

Schulze denies that Normandy Park’s financial woes led him to bail out of the city.

“Almost every city or state has financial problems,” Schulze told the Highline Times. “Normandy Park’s problems may be a little more severe. But they were not a factor in my decision at all.”

Instead, Schulze noted, that after managing smaller cities for the majority of his career, he was looking to head a larger organization.

He said he has been admiring the 26 square-mile city for a number of years.

“It is an attractive community with lots of potential and some new challenges.”

Pending successful negotiation of a contract, the Bainbridge Island City Council is scheduled to formally hire Schulze at its Sept. 26 meeting.

If so, Schulze is planning to give his 30-day notice on Sept. 27 with Halloween, Oct. 31 being his last day on the job in Normandy Park.

Schulze admitted there were “gloomy faces around city hall,” the day after the Bainbridge Island council announced its pick.

He said he is leaving with “mixed emotions” after developing many positive relationships in his six years with the city.

Schulze is leaving Normandy Park at a time when the city is facing a severe financial crisis. This summer the tranquil town was rocked by reports from news media of Normandy Park’s possible demise as a separate city, either through disincorporation or annexation to Burien or Des Moines.

Schulze responded that city officials had not considered those drastic options but the City Council did place on the November ballot a property tax levy lid that would raise residents’ tax rate from $1.31 per 1,000 of assessed value to $1.60.

The city manager said property tax restrictions had particularly hit the city hard because the taxes account for about 60 percent of its tax revenues.

The city also does not have a lot of room along First Avenue South, its commercial district, for large tax revenue raising businesses.

In 2008 when the recession hit, “it was like falling off a cliff for the city’s revenues,” Schulze said.

Normandy Park’s general fund reserves have been depleted to the point where they are projected to be gone in three years without serious action, he noted.

City staff has been reduced by 33 percent and Normandy Park has deferred maintenance and replacing equipment, Schulze reported.

Before coming to Normandy Park in 2006, Schulze was city manager in another affluent Seattle suburban city, Medina, home of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

He was also city administrator in Sandstone, Minn. from 1992 to 1996.

According to the Kitsap Sun, Schulze will also face daunting challenges in Bainbridge Island where roads are failing and the city does not have funds to maintain them.

Schulze will also need to hire a new Bainbridge Island police chief after the current chief quit two weeks ago. On Sept. 1, Schulze announced Chris Gaddis as Normandy Park’s permanent police chief replacing long-time chief Rick Keiffer, who retired.

Schulze will replace a former city manager, who was ousted in March, according to the Sun.

Redmond resident Greenberg told the Highline Times that the shorter commute to Mercer Island will allow him to spend more time with his family. He noted that if the job offer had been in Federal Way or Tacoma, he wouldn’t have considered it.

Besides community development duties, Greenberg will be in charge of Mercer Island’s “front-counter services” such as building permits. He will also oversee code compliance.

In his spare time, Greenberg produces award-winning wine under the Convergence Zone label. His was one of the featured wineries at the Poverty Bay Wine Festival in Des Moines.

He assures Highline residents he will be back in the area with his wines at the next Poverty Bay event. In fact, he said he was the first winery to re-register. The event at Landmark on the Sound is his favorite wine event of the year, Greenberg added.

Like Schulze, Greenberg said he is moving on with mixed emotions, having built many good relationships in his 14 years as a Burien staffer. Greenberg said he will probably take a week of accrued vacation before his official final day on Oct. 15.

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