Barbara Howard (top left), Matt Clarke (top right), Kate Finn (center left), Andrea Browning (center right) and Aaron Weisser (bottom left) listen to Homer city manager candidate Rob Dumouchel (bottom right) speak during an interview with the City Manager Hiring Committee on Monday, June 29, 2020 via Zoom in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Barbara Howard (top left), Matt Clarke (top right), Kate Finn (center left), Andrea Browning (center right) and Aaron Weisser (bottom left) listen to Homer city manager candidate Rob Dumouchel (bottom right) speak during an interview with the City Manager Hiring Committee on Monday, June 29, 2020 via Zoom in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Hiring committee recommends candidate for city manager

After hearing what he had to say, members of the City Manager Hiring Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Homer City Council hiring the lone remaining candidate for the job: Rob Dumouchel of Eureka, California.

Dumouchel interviewed with the committee on Monday in a special city meeting via Zoom, after having interviewed with the city council and Mayor Ken Castner in June along with two other candidates.

After narrowing down a pool of applicants to a handful of people selected for telephonic interviews, the council interviewed only three when two of them withdrew their applications. Of those three candidates, the council invited Dumouchel to have a second interview with them and eliminated the other two from consideration. He interviewed with the city’s hiring committee made up of city employees and community members on Monday, and was scheduled to have his second council interview on Wednesday, after the press deadline for the Homer News.

Dumouchel served as a specialist in the U.S. 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.

While he has no previous experience as a city manager, Dumouchel has worked in city government since 2016, when he joined the parks and recreation department of the City of Eureka, California. 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.

One of the questions posed Monday by the hiring committee had to do with Dumouchel’s several moves around to different jobs and departments for the City of Eureka. He said it was intentional — he’s been trying to amass experience in several different areas of city government specifically to be able to pursue a city manager job or similar position.

The hiring committee is made up of several community members, as well as Homer Personnel Director Andrea Browning and Deputy Harbormaster Matt Clarke. They asked how long Dumouchel could see himself as Homer’s city manager. Dumouchel answered that he would potentially like it to be a long time, but that how long he continued in the job would ultimately be up to the city and the council.

“City managers typically have a little bit of a shelf life,” he said. “Sometimes you hit a home run and someone stays with (a city) for 20 years, but frequently like five years is a pretty good run for a city manager. … I want to make sure I can put down a good five years and if, you know, the community likes me and it’s working out, I mean, I’d love to be in a position to keep going.”

Dumouchel said he prefers working relationships with higher-level management employees to be collaborative. He also described how he would deal with unsatisfied contractors with the city, saying that good managers do not escalate situations and work to find the root of the problem or complaint.

The hiring committee was interested in whether Dumouchel had any previous experience in dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, given the sizable upgrades and expansions planned for the Homer Harbor. Dumouchel said he has had a small amount of experience dealing with the corps, mostly to do with dredging.

Dumouchel spoke at length about his interest in addressing homelessness and addiction and the programs Eureka implemented to help solve those issues.

In their deliberation before the unanimous vote, members of the hiring committee said they were impressed.

“I do think the lack of city manager experience is not ideal, but that being said, council has already looked at the resume and application and determined that they’re OK with that, that they like this candidate well enough. So I think we have to take that out of consideration,” Browning said. “Rob seems smart and motivated. I think if he’s hardworking, he could be successful in this roll. Katie (Koester, Homer’s previous city manager) had never been a city manager before and she was amazing, so we’ve seen it before here.”

Browning did note that Dumouchel’s lack of experience specifically with Alaska municipalities will be “a steep learning curve.”

“It’s different than plugging in somebody that’s already been a city manager or department head in Alaska,” she said.

The council is to take the hiring committee’s recommendation into account when making its determination following Dumouchel’s second interview with them Wednesday evening.

This is the second round of searching for a replacement for Koester, who departed to work for the City and Borough of Juneau this spring. The council offered the job to a candidate in March, but he turned it down.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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