Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington)
BYLINE: Mark Morey
YAKIMA, Wash. — Tony O’Rourke, Yakima’s new city manager, says he will be in town Friday to sign a contract approved Tuesday by the City Council that sets his annual salary at $175,000, equal to his pay in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
O’Rourke said he plans to start work July 2 and hopes to find a home here before then.
“I think we’re both mutually excited about the partnership and look forward to initiating it,” O’Rourke said Tuesday evening in a telephone interview.
The council approved the contract on a 5-1 vote at a special meeting called by Mayor Micah Cawley.
Dave Ettl was absent. Bill Lover said he supported hiring O’Rourke, but could not back a provision for six months of severance pay if voters approve a switch to the strong mayor form of government, Cawley said after the meeting.
Supporters of a strong-mayor form of government for Yakima lost at the ballot box last year. Although they have said they would try again this year, no decision has been announced.
Cawley said O’Rourke came into negotiations knowing that he would be near the salary cap, which tops out at $180,000.
“He doesn’t expect a raise” in the next few years, Cawley said.
Don Cooper, the last manager, was hired at a salary of $155,000 but resigned four months later to return to Florida to care for an ill family member. His longtime predecessor, Dick Zais, earned $140,000 for years. City officials have said Zais, one of the longest-serving city managers in state history, was historically underpaid.
Cawley said he believes the salary is fair given O’Rourke’s background and what the city expects of him.
“We expect Tony to come and make us more effecient and save us money,” Cawley said.
O’Rourke has been at South Lake Tahoe since 2010. He was the executive director of a resort company in the Vail, Colo., area for 14 years before that.
The council last month voted unamimously to offer him the job.
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