Walla Walla Joint Community Development board to hire director

The two members so far chosen for the board constitute a quorum and plan to pick an interim chief today.

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WALLA WALLA -- A move to expedite the naming of an interim director for the newly formed city-county development agency has resulted in the agency's first public meeting taking place today at 4 p.m. without much public notice.

Walla Walla Joint Community Development board member Jim Barrow -- named to the position Wednesday -- said he got a call Thursday from fellow board member Gregory Tompkins, who was appointed earlier this week.

Barrow said the two agreed to hold a special meeting today at the county courthouse to discuss and most likely name an interim director for the joint agency.

"I can't remember what time (the call took place). Obviously it was before the press release (that went out at 3:19 p.m.). I just know we had to scramble around to find a place to meet," Barrow said.

As of 9 a.m. today, notice of the meeting had also failed to make it to the county's website, but the board still met its state-required 24-hour notice when county staff submitted a media release detailing the agenda for the special meeting in an e-mail to the Union-Bulletin at 3:19 p.m. Thursday.

Barrow and Tompkins are the first two members to be named to what will eventually be a three-person board. And both said they agreed to the meeting on such short notice because for the next two weeks both will be out of town. And both pointed out the interim director who is expected to be named today will be temporary.

"We can't wait as we would want to do for a broad-based public employee input. And hopefully that's the type of input we would receive later on for the permanent position," Barrow said.

But public testimony doesn't necessarily have to be taken in hiring matters, either for interim or permanent director, and state law allows governing boards to determine to what extent they will receive feedback from the public.

"This is just about hiring an interim director and we don't let the public get involved in personnel decisions," Tompkins added.

The new interim director will play a key role in managing the merger between the city of Walla Walla Development Services Department and the Walla Walla County Community Development Department. The merger is expected to also include layoffs of up to six full-time employees from the county or city or both.

"We need to get things moving both for the benefit of the public and for the benefit of our current employees. I think people deserve to know if they are going to have a job after Jan. 1 with the new agency," Barrow said.

A quorum of the board of the Walla Walla Joint Community Development Agency became possible Wednesday after the City Council appointed Councilman Jim Barrow to represent the city on the new board.

Today's meeting will take place at 4 p.m. today in room 203 of the Walla Walla County Courthouse "to discuss and possibly take action on appointing an interim director for the joint agency."

The third member of the new board will be determined by joint approval of the Council and county commission. The planning agency board will be an independent entity that will process building, land use and other permits for both city and county residents. It will also provide staff support for the city and county planning commissions, the City Council and county commissioners.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325. Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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