By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek, September 3, 2021.
There’s no question that the City of Mill Creek has lost decades of institutional knowledge in the past two years with the departures of long term employees.
After over twenty years working for the City of Mill Creek, on August 26th Senior Planner Christi Schmidt submitted her resignation. She will be going to a better paying planning job with more opportunities for advancement at the City of Lake Stevens the week of September 13th.
In a telephone interview Schmidt said she loves her job in Mill Creek and the people she works with, but was disappointed that senior city management wasn’t interested in understanding and supporting the planning and building permit work done at the city.
She went on to say City Manager Michael Ciaravino has insulated himself from the work done in her department and hasn’t tried to learn what they do.
Schmidt said she believes Mill Creek has great potential, but sees Lake Stevens as much more proactive in planning for the future and in supporting the community’s development.
She regrets having to leave her friends at the city and the property owners and developers with whom she has worked.
“During my last weeks (ending 9/10/21) at the City, I will do everything I can to assist in completing up my projects and duties to make the transition of my leaving easier on my co-workers and developers/property owners,” she wrote in her letter of resignation.
Mill Creek’s Planning Division brings in significant revenue from land use and building permit fees. During normal times the city’s Passport Office nets the city more dollars than the Planning Division, but Covid closed City Hall to visitors last year and has limited passport activity this year.
According to an April 27th presentation given to the city council by Planning Manager Tom Rogers, the Planning Division generated over $800,000 in 2020 and about $200,000 in the first quarter of 2021.
Including Schmidt, Mill Creek’s Planning Division lost three long-term employees in the last two years. Kim Mason-Hatt was laid off in 2020 and Sherrie Ringstad retired earlier this year.
A partial list of other employees who have left city employ during Ciaravino’s tenure include Communications and Marketing Director Joni Kirk, Finance Director Peggy Lauerman, Human Resources Manager Laura Orlando, Information Systems Manager James Busch, Interim Finance Manager Tara Dunford, Public Works and Community Development Director Gina Hortillosa, Police Chief Greg Elwin, Public Works Supervisor Nathan Beagle, City Clerk Gina Pfister, Communications and Marketing Coordinator Meredith Cook, Communications and Marketing Coordinator Gordon Brink, Communications and Marketing Coordinator Bill Craig, Right-of-Way Inspector Larry Celustka, Interim Community Development and Public Works Director Matthew Feeley, Project Engineer Irving Trejo, Finance Director Jeff Balentine, and Communications and Marketing Coordinator Kristen Rasmussen.
The Mill Creek City Council is currently conducting Ciaravino’s annual performance review in a number of executive sessions closed to the public. Staff turnover will likely be a topic of discussion.