City Manager Koester resigns for job in Juneau

Katie Koester, the city’s Homer-born-and-raised city manager, resigned on Monday to take a job in Alaska’s capital city.

Koester announced her resignation in a letter to Homer Mayor Ken Castner and the Homer City Council on Dec. 9.

“I will always call Homer home and am forever grateful for this special Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea,” Koester wrote in her letter. “This town has raised me, the people have supported me and taught me about integrity, transparency, and the value of relationships.”

Koester has accepted a position as the Public Works and Engineering Director for the City and Borough of Juneau. She won’t be leaving Homer just yet. Under the terms of her contract, she had to provide 60-day notice to the city.

Selected by the council in April 2015 to succeed former city manager Walt Wrede, she and Deputy Harbormaster Matt Clarke were the finalists in a second round of applicants. Jeffery Trinker of Rosenburg, Texas, withdrew from consideration.

Before being selected as city manager, Koester worked as the city coordinator of community and economic development starting in 2011. From 2004 to 2011 she was chief of staff for former Rep. Paul Seaton (NP-Homer) and also managed some of his election campaigns. Koester was born and raised in Homer, and has a master of political science from Pontific Catholic University of Chile, Santiago, and a bachelor of arts in government from Smith College, Northhampton, Massachusetts. She is nearing completion on a master in public administration from the University of Alaska Southeast.

In her resignation letter, Koester said she plans to spend the next few months working on key projects “to ensure a solid foundation for my successor.” A press release from her office cited numerous accomplishments, including restructuring the city budget after revenue impacts from state budget cuts, getting voter approval to direct Homer Accelerated Road and Trails funds to support road and trail maintenance, and the financing and construction of a new $7.5 million Homer Police station.

At the Homer City Council’s regular meeting Monday, the council scheduled a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, to appoint a City Manager Selection Committee, establish a recruitment process and time line, and set a date for Koester’s departure.

In his comments at the end of the council meeting, Castner said of selecting a new city manager, “I am going to be a proponent of an open process.”

Castner was on the selection committee to hire Wrede.

“The interviews were done in public,” Castner said. “…I think the process was really transparent and open.”

During the selection of Wrede’s successor, as a then private citizen, Castner had been critical of the hiring process and was instrumental in making resumes and interview questions public.

“This is not good-bye,” Koester wrote in her resignation letter. At the council meeting, she added, “I want you to know you have many meetings before you get rid of me.”

In comments of the council on Monday, some council members praised Koester’s service and congratulated her.

“I know you’re going to have adventures,” said council member Caroline Venuti. “I believe you’ll come back. Don’t give up your roots here.”

“I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the great Katie Koester,” said council member Joey Evensen.

“I know we’re saving the waxing poetic for later, but I’m really excited for you,” said council member Rachel Lord.

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