Walla Walla hires temporary director for public works

Bealey could become the permanent director at the end of his 14-month stint.

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WALLA WALLA -- For the third time in two years, city officials hired a new public works director, this time as a 14-month temporary to give city officials a chance to see if he's the right person for the job.

Ki Bealey, 36, who is a native of Kodiak, Alaska, spent the last 13 years working as an engineer in the private sector in the Vancouver, Wash., area, where he worked primarily for the civil engineering firm of Wallis Engineering.

"Most of my projects have been complete projects ... where you not only have a vehicle component, but a bicycle component, a pedestrian component and often a transit component," Bealey said, adding that those projects often included both underground and overhead utilities, replacement of water and sewer lines and other infrastructure work.

Bealey's experience also includes working with City Manager Nabiel Shawa, who was then the city manager for Washougal, Wash.

Earlier this summer, Shawa asked City Council members to forego the regular search process, but instead to allow him to offer the position to Bealey, who could one day serve on a permanent basis.

Shawa emphasized that hiring Bealey was not an act of "cronyism," but that he felt Bealey's experience as a private-sector civil engineering made him a strong candidate for the position. He added that hiring a temporary could save the city as much as $30,000 in recruiting expenses.

Bealey was hired near the top of the public works director pay scale at $110,000 per year. According to the city's online pay scales, the public works director makes roughly $90,000 to $115,000 per year.

Bealey was also provided a $5,000 moving allowance and an additional $1,000 per month for living expenses, which Shawa justified because Bealey is a temporary hire.

In addition, Bealey was provided with 20 days paid vacation upon his first day of employment.

Prior to taking the position, Bealey had been working with the multi-state engineering firm of Mead & Hunt as a project engineer mainly in transportation.

"I left a very stable job and took a pay cut to come out here. And it is just one of those things; I was working for a great company, but this is just a great community," he said.

Bealey also pointed out several other things that drew him to Walla Walla, including the community's dedication to sustainability, the availability of farm-to-table produce, a commendable city water system and the Walla Walla Sweets. And he added that "Sweets" is the nickname for his daughter.

The new public works director said he also enjoys not having to commute by vehicle every day.

"I traded half an hour in the car for a half-hour walk. I hope I get to keep that. That is my goal. And I have been very impressed with what I have found here in Walla Walla," he said.

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