Steve Stuart among Ridgefield city manager finalists

Nelson Holmberg, Port of Woodland's executive director, and Chris Sutter, Vancouver's assistant police chief, also named

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

Updated: February 26, 2014, 7:40 PM

 

Three big names are in the running to become Ridgefield’s next city manager, including Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, who announced Jan. 23 that he would not seek re-election.

The other two finalists are Nelson Holmberg, executive director of the Port of Woodland, and Chris Sutter, Vancouver’s assistant police chief.

Ridgefield’s announcement Wednesday followed a months-long process to replace former City Manager Phil Messina, who stepped down in November after about a year at the city.

Since then, the city has taken its time sifting through applications, a job that’s been helped along by the Prothman Co., a consulting firm, and Paul Lewis, a Vancouver-based financial consultant who previously served as the city’s interim city manager. Earlier in the month, the city’s hiring committee decided to extend the time period for accepting applications for the city’s top administrative position, which comes with a salary range between $105,000 and $125,000.

That decision appears to be paying off, Mayor Ron Onslow said, as the current crop of candidates has exceeded his expectations.

“I’m excited about the candidates,” Onslow said. “I think any one of them could do a great job. I’m excited to see what the staff, council and citizens think.”

In an uncommon turn of events, all three candidates are local. And they have varying backgrounds.

A longtime police veteran, Sutter last year served as Vancouver’s interim chief of police, before being passed over for the permanent position in October. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Holmberg has been the Port of Woodland’s executive director for four years. During that time, he said he’s worked to repair what he perceived to be a fractured relationship between the city and the port.

As city manager, Holmberg said he would emphasize building partnerships and fostering economic development.

“I love Clark County. Ridgefield is second to none,” he said. “I see this as an intriguing opportunity.”

Stuart, meanwhile, has served as a Democratic county commissioner for the past 10 years.

A Ridgefield native, Stuart said he became interested in the city manager position around the time he announced his plan not to seek re-election.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to serve the people.”

Stuart has been absent from recent commission meetings because he’s been on vacation.

The city council could make a hiring decision as early as Friday, following an all-day series of interviews.