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

Ketchikan’s City Council is set to meet inside City Hall for the first time since March 2020. They’ll discuss two key steps toward recruiting a new city manager to replace the late Karl Amylon, who passed away weeks after stepping down earlier this year.

The first step is clarifying the responsibilities of Ketchikan’s next city manager. Amylon held two titles: city manager and general manager of the city-run electric, water and telecommunications utility.

In September, shortly after Amylon’s departure, council members said it was worth considering splitting the two positions and hiring a utilities manager. Council Member Janalee Gage said at the time that it might be tough to find someone qualified to manage both city administration and Ketchikan Public Utilities.

“Karl was a unique individual when it comes to doing the two jobs, KPU and city manager,” she said at the Sept. 9 meeting. “So I guess the only thing I would suggest is if those two can no longer be run by one person, we may have to consider separating the two again.”

Now, city administration suggests that splitting the positions could be costly and lead to bureaucratic headaches.

In a memo to the council, Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson writes that combining the two positions saves the city, at a minimum, roughly $728,000 a year in salaries for managers and assistants. And as a result, she says separating the jobs would require tax or fee hikes. She says Amylon’s dual role saved the city more than $16 million over 22 years.

But Simpson says it’s not all about cost — she says there are also concerns about shared staff in departments like finance and human resources answering to two equal bosses. Before the positions were combined, she says the two managers frequently gave contradictory orders to the shared staff, leading to low morale and high turnover. Simpson says that’s the primary reason the council voted to give Amylon both jobs more than 20 years ago.

The council will consider the question Thursday evening.

Immediately afterward, the council will consider taking a step towards initiating the search for a new manager. The city plans to use a headhunting company, but since the search is likely to cost more than $50,000, city code requires a formal request for proposals. The council is scheduled to finalize the terms Thursday.

The search for a search firm is expected to take at least three weeks.

Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers in City Hall on Front Street. The full agenda is available at the city’s website along with a livestream of the meeting. It’s also broadcast on local cable channels.