WALLA WALLA — City Council members voted 5-0 on Wednesday to hire current Washougal (Wash.) City Manager Nabiel Shawa as the next city manager. Council Members Shane Laib and Jim Barrow were absent.
"I have never felt as good about taking a job as I have in Walla Walla. It feels just right," Shawa said, adding his wife had the same sentiments. "My wife, Suzy, said ‘You know that is a really cool town, and it’s the friendliest town that I have been to in a long time.’"
Shawa will start on Oct. 19. He will fill a vacancy left by Duane Cole, who resigned in April. Support Services Director Tim McCarty has served as interim city manager since then.
Shawa will receive $140,000 per year, roughly $30,000 more than Cole, who earned just under $110,000 per year.
The city had advertised a salary range of $115,00 to $142,000 for the position.
Shawa is currently making $136,000 as city manger for Washougal, a town of about 13,000.
"I have 26 years of experience. And it (Shawa’s future salary) is not just for being a city administrator for 26 years, it is also for what I have been able to accomplish at each place I worked," he said.
Shawa, a native of Washington, graduated from Washington State University with a degree in agricultural economics with a strong emphasis on futures, he said.
After graduating, he worked for agricultural businesses in the United States and overseas. But after returning from overseas, he said his father encouraged him to start a cranberry farm, which he did. Shawa added he owned and operated a cranberry farm until selling to become city manager of Washougal in 2004.
"Cranberries are the same genus as grapes," Shawa said. And he pointed out that like grapes, cranberries take a few years to produce a full crop, which meant he needed another source of income while his cranberries matured.
"I needed to find a job. And the little city of Longbeach, Wash., was hiring their very first administrator. Lo and behold I ended up being selected at the age of 26 as their first city administrator," he said.
Shawa, 52, has four children, ranging in age from 25-29, and four grandchildren, but he has no ties to Walla Walla, and will come here with no area friends or family.
"It takes a certain level of guts or faith to take a leap and go in to a community where there is nobody you know. But I am a Washington native," he added.
"It is also good to get out of your comfort zone. And every time I have done this in my life, not that I have moved a lot, I have ended up making wonderful friends and meeting great people," he said. He added that he and his wife will be looking at homes here this weekend.