Ketchikan’s city hall on June 11, 2020 (KRBD file photo by Maria Dudzak)

Ketchikan’s assistant city manager will take the helm of the city’s administration while the search for a new manager is underway. Ketchikan’s City Council formally appointed Lacey Simpson as acting manager Thursday.

Mayor Bob Sivertsen says the council faces a tough task in searching for a permanent manager.

“There are many communities with higher populations,” he said. “There are few communities that probably do as much as the city of Ketchikan does.”

The city of Ketchikan handles typical municipal business — public works, sanitation, police and fire departments — but also operates five small boat harbors, the city’s cruise ship port and a convention center, among other responsibilities.

And that’s not all — Karl Amylon, who retired after 26 years in the position, held two titles. In addition to his role as city manager, Amylon also managed Ketchikan Public Utilities. That means he was in charge of electrical generation and distribution, the city’s water system, and its publicly-run internet and phone system.

The two positions were combined in 1999, four years after Amylon joined the city. As the council considers its next steps, acting manager Simpson said city leaders might think about whether to split those responsibilities.

Sivertsen said the council would consider both local and outside candidates for the job. He said he favored hiring an outside firm to conduct the search instead of tasking the acting manager with recruiting.

Council Member Mark Flora said he agreed with that approach.

“I think one of the first steps to consider in this process is finding the right agency, headhunter, whatever you want to call it,” Flora said.

Flora said the acting manager already had enough on her plate, and he said he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

The council didn’t take any concrete action on starting the search. Sivertsen preached patience, saying the process of selecting Ketchikan’s next city manager could take a significant amount of time. Simpson has agreed to serve as acting manager for one year, though she could step back sooner if a manager is hired before next September.

The City Council is due to meet again Sept. 16.