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North Bend hires new city leader

North Bend's new city administrator hadn't even been hired yet, but city staff were already adopting one of his ideas to streamline the budget process.

Treasurer Elena Montgomery presented City Council members with preliminary 2007 general fund budget numbers at an Oct. 24 work session. Included in her presentation were "decision cards" - a way to present budget items not required to maintain government function, on which council members must decide how much to spend.

It's an idea Duncan Wilson learned in Covington, where he worked for two years as deputy city manager and city attorney before being picked as North Bend's new city administrator.

"I think that's a sign of the staff accepting him already as a leader," said North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing.

Hearing and Wilson agreed to a contract Oct. 26. Wilson is scheduled to begin Nov. 1 but his appointment isn't official until the City Council votes, which it is scheduled to do at its next meeting Nov. 7. However, council members greeted Wilson and welcomed him aboard at the Oct. 24 meeting.

For his part, Wilson said he is excited at the prospect of bringing his career to North Bend.

"I'm extremely excited about this," Wilson said. "It's where I want to take my career."

Wilson is a 1982 graduate of the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University). He has an undergraduate degree in business administration from Western Washington University. For 22 years he worked in a Renton law firm - specializing in commercial, real estate and municipal law - that he eventually took over as managing partner.

During that time he represented several area cities as city attorney or assistant city attorney, including Buckley, Black Diamond, Fife, Wilkeson, Carbonado and even North Bend in the 1980s. In 2004, he left private practice to work as city attorney and deputy city manager for Covington.

Covington has a population of 17,500, with a budget similar to that of much-smaller North Bend.

"That wasn't a good thing," Wilson said. "There were holes in the budget."

North Bend is in better financial shape with a better mixture of revenue sources, he said.

For several months this year, Wilson filled in as the staff liaison to Covington's Economic Development Council, an experience that drew on his background in business administration.

Ed Cook, who is a member of both Covington's EDC and North Bend's Business and Economic Development Commission, said he was pleased to hear Wilson would be coming to North Bend.

"I was impressed with him," Cook said. He noted that Wilson displayed common sense, intelligence and personal rapport in his dealings with Covington's EDC.

Wilson left work in Covington in August after applying for the North Bend job. He was one of nearly two dozen applicants. Three were interviewed as finalists.

Hearing said he was sold on Wilson's interpersonal qualities and called him a "good fit" for the city.

Early in the interview process, Hearing said he was looking for a candidate of the caliber of Snoqualmie's city administrator Bob Larson. Hearing said that in Wilson, he's found an administrator with many of the same leadership qualities, if not the full depth of experience.

Hearing commended the city staff, which has functioned without a city administrator since Hearing dismissed George Martinez in July. The city also went without a planning director during much of the same time period.

"Now we can all take a deep breath," Hearing said.

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