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Bremerton mayor signals new direction for public works

The City of Bremerton will soon start its search for a temporary administrator to fill in at the Public Works and Utilities Department after the firing Tuesday of Director Phil Williams.

City Engineer Mike Mecham is acting as interim public works director and the department’s temporary administrator, when hired, would analyze the department’s finances for six months until a replacement can be found, Mayor Patty Lent said Wednesday.

Mecham said it was too early to say how the department would be affected, but said the level of service to residents would not change.

Lent did not give specific reasons for letting Williams go, only saying she wanted to “go in a different direction.”

City Councilman Roy Runyon said he hopes the move will not disrupt major public works projects in progress, such as the Gorst sewerage system under construction and the downtown Park Plaza project.

“It’s a tough time to let key people go,” he said.

Williams did not return calls seeking comment.

Williams is the second department head let go by Lent since she took office in November. In January, she relieved former Financial Services Director Andy Parks, who was since replaced by former Kitsap County Treasurer Barbara Stephenson.

“I’m not making a habit of this,” Lent said of the department leadership changes.

Lent met with Public Works and Utilities employees Wednesday morning, she said. When asked whether layoffs were forthcoming, she told them she would rather shift employees around than let them go, but layoffs are still on the table.

The city aims to find a temporary administrator to examine the department’s operations for six months by the end of March. The Public Works’ top position will be publicly advertised and filled by the end of the year, Lent said.

“I don’t have any hope that we’re going to find anybody as good as Phil Williams,” City Councilman Will Maupin said.

Williams was hired in June 2004 by former Mayor Cary Bozeman to head the city’s largest department, with 135 employees. He was former public works director in Spokane and Marysville, Wash.

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