Council selects city manager candidate for second interview

The Homer City Council is pursuing a second interview with an interim director of the development services in Eureka, California as the search for a new city manager continues.

The city has been wanting a permanent manager since the departure of Katie Koester to Juneau earlier this year. Marvin Yoder served as interim city manager until June 8, and City Planner Rick Abboud is now serving as acting city manager.

Last week, Mayor Ken Castner and members of the city council interviewed three candidates over the phone: Ernest Weiss, the Natural Resources Director for the Aleutians East Borough, former city manager of Pilot Point and former mayor of King Cove; City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen; and Rob Dumouchel, the City of Eureka employee. Dumouchel and Weiss were interviewed last Tuesday and Jacobsen was interviewed last Wednesday.

Jacobsen has been Homer’s current city clerk since 2017.

Jacobsen worked as an office manager and real estate agent at Bay Realty from 1997 to 2004, when she was hired at the city as a deputy clerk, a position she held for 13 years before becoming the city clerk.

She touted her extensive knowledge of city services and functions during her interview on June 10. She got a Certified Municipal Clerk certification in 2006 and a Master Municipal Clerk certification in 2016 and has served on the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks and International Association of Municipal Clerks since 2005.

Jacobsen has long worked with the city’s department heads and other staff, and has experience working with a city manager, the city council and a mayor.

In a follow-up question about qualifications for the job of city manager, council member Joey Evensen asked how Jacobsen would respond to those who might think she is not as qualified as some of the other candidates. Jacobsen has a high school diploma but not a college degree. She cited her commitment to lifelong learning and the myriad professional development sources and opportunities she’s pursued over her career.

“I feel like I have an education,” she said. “It’s maybe not a traditional education. It didn’t work out for me in my younger years to go to college. … I appreciate the question and I understand the concern, but I also feel that there are other ways to achieve appropriate education to be a local government professional that maybe don’t include a bachelor’s degree in college.”

In discussing the three interviews at the end of Jacobsen’s interview last Wednesday, the council identified Dumouchel as the candidate they wanted to pursue for a second interview. Several council members said they were impressed with Jacobsen’s interview as well.

They felt Weiss would not be a good fit for the city at this time. Some council members and Mayor Ken Castner referenced his answer to one of the questions, in which he said preparing for his retirement was a factor in seeking employment other than his current position.

“I appreciate his honesty,” council member Joey Evensen said of Weiss. “… But I think Rob Dumouchel is a stronger candidate in basically all regards.”

Weiss was the only candidate that made it through to telephonic interviews who had previous experience as a city manager. There were originally more candidates selected for telephonic interviews, but two of them withdrew their applications ahead of the interviews.

Like Jacobsen, Dumouchel has not served as a city manager before — serving as Homer’s would be his first city manager position. He said during his June 9 interview that everyone has to start somewhere, and that he is motivated to move into this next phase of city government.

“And no disrespect to anyone else in the field,” said council member Heath Smith. “I just feel like that’s where our focal point should be. As hungry as he is and ready to take that next step in his professional career, I think he’s ours to lose.”

The council directed Personnel Director Andrea Browning to invite Dumouchel for a second interview, which will be via Zoom to accommodate state travel restrictions during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. The council members debated at some length whether to give Dumouchel the option of coming to Homer for the interview, but settled on doing a video interview via Zoom and leaving it to Dumouchel as to whether he wants to visit later.

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.

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