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City Administrator Duncan Wilson leaving North Bend for Friday Harbor

Duncan Wilson - File photo
Duncan Wilson
— image credit: File photo

Only paradise could have induced Duncan Wilson to leave his position as North Bend's city administrator.

"I love this city, I love this area. I love the mayor and the council," he said Thursday. "There's nothing about this job I don't like."

Then paradise came calling, in the form of an offer from Friday Harbor, and Wilson, after a long struggle, accepted.

"It took over a month for me to go through this…a lot of sleepless nights trying to decide what to do," he said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to escape to paradise."

His wife, Traci, a teacher in the Kent School District where they live, was also ready for some new challenges, Wilson said, which made the decision a little easier.

Wilson will leave North Bend in May, and will start his new role as town administrator of Friday Harbor, in June. He was recruited to the position by the retiring town administrator, King Fitch, and Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher, without ever applying for the job.

"I didn't seek this out, it came to me," he said.

Before he leaves, Wilson plans to continue shepherding some of the many projects he's seen off to a good start in his five years with North Bend. These include the new fire station that voters approved in February, and construction of a hotel in the city to encourage tourism and economic development.

Wilson counts among his accomplishments the acquisition of city water rights, ending the city's 10-year building moratorium, annexations expanding the city as far east as Trucktown (exit 34 on I-90), construction of the park and ride and beautification efforts on the city's west side, adoption of a master plan for the city's downtown, and creating the Transportation Benefit District that will levy a 0.2 percent sales tax for street improvements starting later this year.

"He's done an awful lot for us as a city," said North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing, who added the construction of the First Street roundabout to Wilson's and his own list of achievements.

Wilson also credits fellow city staff members Ron Garrow in public works, Gina Estep in community and economic development, and Cheryl Proffitt-Schmidt, and Susie Oppedal in adminstration for the city's success, saying "It was an absolute and complete team effort… I'm extremely proud of the accomplishments this city has made in the past five years."

Replacing Wilson is a task that the Mayor has just begun considering. "What we're talking about right now, is what kind of person we want to put in that position," he said. "Duncan came to us with a certain set of skills that we needed at that time…" and now Hearing wants to re-examine the skills the city will need for the future.

He plans to discuss the city's needs with each City Council member, and expects to hire the candidate through the city's internal process, rather than hiring a recruiter, since he's had great success with that in the past.

"There are an awful lot of really good people looking for work right now," he said, taking a positive approach to the transition. "This could work to the city's advantage, the timing of this could be in the best interest of the city."

Wilson expects challenges similar to North Bend's when he starts his new role at Friday Harbor, but with a stronger focus on economic development for the tourist-dependent community. He hopes to help select his successor in North Bend, and says he'll be back to see the completion of some major projects, like the new fire station.  "I'm certainly going to get it started, and I'll certainly be back for the ribbon cutting," he said.

He didn't accomplish everything he set out to, he admits, "but I think we've done a pretty darn good job."

To learn more about the city of Friday Harbor, visit http://www.fridayharbor.org/

 

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