Wenatchee Mayor Reflects On Decision To Not Seek Another Term
Wenatchee Mayor Frank announced at the Jan. 26th City Council meeting he would not seek re-election to another term this fall after what will be 12 years at the helm of Wenatchee City government. During Mayor Kuntz monthly update on city development on the KPQ Agenda program, I asked the Mayor to reflect on the job of leading the city of Wenatchee and his thoughts since announcing his decision to step down at the end of the term in December.
The Agenda: It was a month ago Mayor that you you tipped us off that you were going to be making an announcement late last month. Were you surprised that your plan was pretty much kept under wraps until then?
Mayor Kuntz: No. Obviously I wanted the media to be there and so some of the media outlets were notified in advance. I told them that they probably wanted to come to the meeting, if they wanted to hear the announcement. My department heads knew that was the date that I was going to announce but they didn't know for sure what the decision was going to be. But as I said that night you know I've been saying this for about a year or so off and on. And when I first started saying it, I'm not even sure I believed it myself, to be honest with you. It's like, Oh, I'll probably just change my mind. And the longer I said it, the longer I thought about it, and the longer I talked to my wife and family and it was like you know what, it's the right time for someone else to take the gavel. You know, it's a it's a hard job. It's difficult. You get tugged this way, that way, all day long. The number of decisions that the mayor needs to make regularly and there's just a lot to it.
The Agenda: Give us a sense of the kinds of decisions as mayor in Wenatchee, a person who'd like to throw their hat into the ring needs to be prepared to do.
Mayor Kuntz: Under the strong mayor form of government, the Council adopts a budget, approves all contracts. But in terms of the day to day operations of the city that is really the mayor's responsibility. We pass that on to the department heads, but lots of times, that decision comes up to my level. I'm not gonna micromanage. And so you got to figure out which ones are important to be involved in and which ones to let staff do because you want staff to feel embodied to do great work. At a meeting this morning, we went through history of things that are going on in the city, including different contracts getting updated and I'm involved in all of those at the really high level. We're ready to contract with a PUD. We're ready to contract with Coast Hotels to manage the convention center. How long should the contract be? How, you know, what are the terms of those sorts of agreements? Those are all decisions that ultimately the mayor is making while negotiating, hoping that the council agrees with the decisions that he's making. You're involved in all of those and it's not just like, two a year it's like, two a month and they're continuous.
The Agenda: How close do you work with the City Council?
Mayor Kuntz: Sometimes, you have to have to convince the Council this is the right thing to do, and not all of them agree with you. Or deciding, when is the right time to get the council involved? How often do you call them and say this is what I'm thinking when's the right time to go have a beer with somebody? when's the right time to go have coffee with somebody and you know, you can overdo those things. It was funny, I remember I was running for reelection after my first term. And whoever was running against me at the time, had these three decisions that I made that he didn't like, and I thought, Oh, Geez, I'm making like five a day 365 days a year for four years. So I made 6000 decisions, and there's three that they didn't like, All right, well, still batting pretty good. Because you don't you just don't see all of those other decisions. And in a small community when you get something big going. Alright, who do I gotta call first? Right? Who do I gotta call second? Who do I call third? Who will be mad if they don't know first? Right?
The Agenda: Being Mayor sounds like a full time job?
Mayor Frank Kuntz: I think it is. But I also think if you really depend on your department heads and trust them and their abilities, you can do it half to two thirds. There's a rhythm to this job. There's a rhythm Monday is different. There's a rhythm to every other Thursday (council meetings) But those department heads do incredible work and if you're confident in the decision you're making are with them in terms of where the lines are, then I think you can do in about two thirds time. It also helps to have an experience right and I've done it as long as I have you sort of feel like you know when the right time to get in and the right time to get out.
The Agenda: Would City Council experience be an advantage for the next candidate for this job?
Mayor Frank Kuntz: I was a four year council member and I think it helps. You know, we have 40 different funds in the city of Wenatchee. And we're moving money between funds all the time and there's enterprise funds, so you can't spend money out of utility fund to pave the road or pay for police. And so I think having a basic understanding of sort of the flow of funds and where all the monies go and how we sort of operate from a fiscal responsibility, I think is hugely important because government is different than a standard business. And so I think to the extent that you have that sort of experience that you've seen, the kinds of contracts that the mayor is asking you to approve, I think it would be helpful, but I think anyone who's smart and who has signed a paycheck and understands the big picture, I think could do the job. I think just being a council member or involved in government would give you a background that's that's helpful.
The Agenda: Your decision to not seek another term is based on a desire for more family time, your age to some degree and to be able to tend to your CPA practice. Will you complete the remainder of your term through December?
Mayor Kuntz: I will fulfill the full term. So I got a text message from Dennis Johnson, the old mayor, and Earl Tilley, the other old Mayor. They were down in Palm Springs together. They sent a picture of the retired mayor's club to me, which I thought was cute about two weeks ago. I texted back and I said I'm a little bit jealous. And by the way, I'm going to announce that I'm going to not be here. This will be my last year. And the text message I got back was good for you. You've done a great job that will add years to your life. I thought that was pretty profound from two mayor's who have gone through this, to say that you don't understand the stress that you're under until you get away from it. And I've talked to a couple of other friends of mine that are were CEOs of big organizations in this town. Their comment was I don't think I understood how tired I was from the overwhelming responsibility. And I don't know how that affects your body, how that affects your mind. Other than I think I've done that for 12 years and I think it does.
The Agenda: A Mayor has to have thick skin as well. And when I asked you about this and I wonder if this has sort of played into it. Mayor is listed as a nonpartisan race. Some may consider you a Republican, others think Democrat. I categorize you as a fiscal conservative, more of a social moderate. You can't please everyone with every decision you make. How do you deal with the critics?
Mayor Frank Kuntz: You know, obviously this job has criticisms. I think when I first became mayor, a lot of times what I would do is like if I knew that someone was coming to a meeting, before the meeting started, I'd go over and sit next to them and shake their hand and explain, we're all just trying our best right and if you understand I'm trying my best and I understand you're trying your best and we don't agree. That's just the way it is right? So I I've learned that that's just part of the business of doing this and no one is always going to agree with decisions you make. I was talking to a gentleman maybe six or eight weeks ago who said Frank, I don't always agree with all your decisions, but the city of Wenatchee knows exactly where they're going and he said he can't say that for the rest of local government. .