Mayor outlines plans for City Hall changes

City administrator and Community Service Department are a priority

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

An administrative reorganization of the city was outlined by Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson at a Feb. 7 workshop.

During his campaign, Johnson said the city would provide more efficient and effective services and the reorganization is his first major effort to fulfill the promise.

The two most notable changes are the addition of a city administrator and the creation the Department of Community Services.

Johnson has proposed that Gary Leaf, now the assistant public works director, be named director of the new department.

“Gary is a natural fit for this position,” Johnson said.

The city administrator will oversee Bonney Lake's daily operations and Johnson intends to name Administrative Services Coordinator Don Morrison to the position.

Bonney Lake has gone without a city administrator since 2000, when the City Council cut funding for the position during a political struggle with then-mayor Bob Young.

During the recent mayoral campaign, Johnson said he intended to name Morrison as the city administrator.

“Don is in that capacity right now,” Johnson said. “This will make if official. I think the City Council is enjoying what Don is doing. Nothing is being held back.”

The reorganization plan received a warm reception from the council with members agreeing to go over the finer details of the plan at their council retreat Friday and Saturday.

“This is pretty exciting,” Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said. “We are finally getting a city administrator who has the ability and skills to deal with the technical problems in the city.”

The Community Services Department would oversee the senior center, parks, facilities and recreation in conjunction with Bonney Lake/Sumner Parks and Recreation Director Rebecca Giles.

“Community Services will bring all the departments together,” Johnson said. “One person will be managing calls so people aren't lost in the shuffle. This department also gives us the focus we need for parks, which can get lost in Public Works.”

The mayor said the department will organize ball field scheduling and provide services for the senior center.

“This is a good way to attack the service side,” Johnson said.

The one decision debated in the workshop was whether the plan should be enacted as an ordinance or resolution.

If the plan is passed as an ordinance it becomes city code or law; keeping it in resolution form means the council gives approval without placing it into code.

During the workshop, City Attorney Jim Dionne said the issue was “the mayor's willingness to limit his authority.”

Dionne said the level of detail in the code defining the positions and job descriptions gives the council more authority in personnel decisions.

Councilman Dave King said members need to be cautious making a decision on the detail and whether to place the plan into code, but he saw the proposal as a good plan he would support.

Johnson said he had no problem with the council putting the plan into the city code.

“I want to make sure the City Council knows what's going on,” Johnson said. “If I can't justify what I'm doing (to the council), then I shouldn't be doing it.”

Dennis Box can be reached at

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