Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)

Council interviews city manager candidates

As the search for a new Homer city manager continues, members of the Homer City Council got to hear from three finalists this week in the first round of interviews in the second round of searching.

Telephonic interviews for three candidates took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. After phone interviews, the council deliberates and decides who to invite for in-person interviews. At least, that’s what happened before the novel coronavirus necessitated distanced meetings done via Zoom. Both telephonic interviews and in-person interviews are open to the public.

Marvin Yoder has been serving as interim city manager, a task he’s done for Homer in the past. Yoder submitted his letter of resignation on Monday as the council prepared to select a new manager from among its candidates, according to a press release from the city.

City Planner Rick Abboud is stepping in as acting city manager for the rest of the search and hiring process, the release states.

Yoder had been serving as interim manager while the city embarked on a second round of candidate searching and hiring, after the candidate they selected in March declined the job offer. Candidate Randy Robertson passed on the position after council member Joey Evenson publicly voiced concerns about the conditions under which Robertson had left his previous city manager positions.

This second round of hiring brought in a larger applicant pool, Human Resources Director Andrea Browning told the council at a previous meeting. The council had narrowed down the applicants to six hopefuls, which they offered telephonic interviews to.

Of the five who initially accepted the interview offers, two have since withdrawn their applications, the city press release states.

This leaves three candidates: Rob Dumouchel, a former U.S. Army Specialist who has spent the last few years in city administration in Eureka, California; Ernest Weiss, the Natural Resources Director for the Aleutians East Borough, former city manager of Pilot Point and former mayor of King Cove; and Melissa Jacobsen, Homer’s current city clerk since 2017 and deputy clerk from 2004-17.

Dumouchel and Weiss were interviewed by the council over the phone, with the meeting taking place via Zoom, on Tuesday evening.

Council members and Mayor Ken Castner took turns asking a little more than a dozen questions of the candidates, ranging from their impressions of the city’s finances to how important they think the Homer Harbor is to the community, to how they would spend their first 30 days on the job.

Council members wanted to know what the candidate’s leadership style is like, how they interact with the public and what they view as the role of a city manager.

Dumouchel served as a specialist in the Army in various locations from 2001-04, as a Korean Language Trained Signals Intelligence Analyst. From there, he became vice president of a systems and marketing company in Grover Beach, California from 2006-13.

He has associate’s degrees in liberal studies, recreation management and computer business information systems from Allan Hancock College in Santa Monica, California, as well as a Bachelor of Science in environmental management and protection, natural resources planning and a Master of Science in environmental and natural resource sciences from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.

Dumouchel entered public service as an assistant planner in the parks and recreation department of the City of Eureka, California in 2016, and he has served in several different positions with the city since then. Most recently he was the planning and building manager for the city’s public works department before becoming interim director of the development services department in March.

Dumouchel told the council his path to public service was not a traditional one. This would be his first time serving as a city manager, which he told the council he sees as a sort of strength.

“You’ve really got to kind of step back and look at me holistically for it to make sense, but I feel the challenges we face, the mix of things, the type of community — I’m a pretty good fit,” Dumouchel said.

Weiss graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Music, and majored in music education. From there, he spend more than 20 years as a teacher at King Cove School in Alaska, instructing in music, technology and other subjects. Weiss also served as a computer network manager and substitute principal on occasion.

Weiss became the mayor of King Cove, with a population of about 1,000 people, in 2006. In 2009, he moved on to become city manager of Pilot Point, Alaska, which has a population of about 65 people.

Returning to work for the Aleutians East Borough, Weiss took his current job as natural resources director for the borough in 2011. He works out of Anchorage.

When the council noted the difference in size between the communities Weiss has served and Homer, he acknowledged that those cities were much smaller but said he’s up to the task of adapting to a larger town.

Weiss said he is familiar with Homer to the extent that he often visits, particularly to fish. As a visitor, he said he can tell how economically valuable the Homer Spit is to the city.

Both candidates said that, if chosen, they would spend their first 30 days on the job listening and getting to know the city staff and department heads as best they could.

Jacobsen was interviewed Wednesday evening, which is past the Homer News print deadline. Check homernews.com for details on her interview.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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