Richards resigns as Gig Harbor city administrator

Ron Williams, of University Place, will take over the role on June 2

Staff writerMay 15, 2014 

The City of Gig Harbor has a new City Administrator. Former Gig Harbor Police Chief Denny Richards has recently assumed the post after former administrator Rob Karlinsey left for a job in Kenmore. (Lee Giles III/Staff photographer)

LEE GILES III — The Peninsula Gateway

Denny Richards' last day as Gig Harbor city administrator is Friday.

Richards will resign effective May 16. Police Chief Mike Davis will become acting city administrator until University Place lawyer Ron Williams takes over the job on June 2.

In a statement to the Gateway, Mayor Jill Guernsey said:

Denny has been a friend for more than 20 years and I wish him nothing but the best. We will miss him. Gig Harbor has been fortunate to have Denny as both a police chief and as a city administrator.
Richards said he left a letter on Guernsey's desk Wednesday afternoon notifying her that he's resigning from the position.

Guernsey had wanted Richards to stay through the end of the year to mentor and train Williams, but Richards was not interested.

"I don’t like the direction (the city is going) and I'm going to leave before that direction gets started,” Richards said.

He did not have a mentor, he said, and learned by doing the job.

“This is not a job you train for, this is a job you learn from sitting in the chair and learning it,” he said. “The learning curve is pretty much straight up.”

Guernsey praised Richards team building at the city, saying, "Denny and the staff have worked hard to build a cohesive team. He can take pride in the fact that the team he helped create will continue in the future."

Richards served in the job for two years. He previously served as a city administrator in Kelso and as Gig Harbor police chief. His departure was announced at an April 16 council meeting.

Afterward, Richards expressed shock.

"The change certainly wasn’t expected,” he told the Gateway in April. “A bit of a shock, but that’s the way it goes, I guess.”

Williams and Guernsey have known each other for 30 years, Williams said. She reached out to him when she became mayor in January.

“We respect each other; trust each other a lot,” he said.

Williams served on the first University Place city council, after the city was incorporated in 1995. He was the second mayor of University Place, serving about 11 months in 1996, he said.

The position reminds him of working on the fledgling city's first council. At that time, University Place was a brand new entity and he recalled late nights with other council members drafting ordinances and more for the city.

“We started to build the city from scratch,” he said.

As a lawyer, he is a past president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. Guernsey stated that he will help revitalize downtown Gig Harbor. He retired in 2012 from the Pierce County Prosector's office in 2012 and until a few weeks ago has been serving a one-and-a-half-year mission trip with his wife for the Mormon Church in Dodge City, Kansas. He helped in Spanish-speaking areas through a "seniors missions" program for retired adults.

Williams said that in his tenure he will focus on revitalizing downtown. 

“That is one of (Guernsey's) top priorities and that will be one of mine too,” he said.

Guernsey listed priorities downtown including "a grocery store, a marine fuel facility and other projects which will increase the vibrancy of downtown Gig Harbor."

Richards thinks that running Gig Harbor is about more than those projects.

“It’s a big city with lots of things going on," Richards said. 

Earlier this year, Guernsey asked the council to add a full-time economic development manager position to the city’s 2014 budget. There was blowback about the proposal from both the community and some council members. The decision was tabled by the city council, modified and re-proposed this time as a replacement of the city administrator position.

Williams has a bachelor's degree in business development and finance from California State-Fullerton. He has five children -- who all attended University Place schools -- and 19 grandchildren. He has lived in Pierce County since 1980 and worked with "pretty much every branch of Municipal Government" through his job at the county.

“(I am) very excited," Williams said of the new role. "It’s just a wonderful challenge. It reminds more of when I was on the (University Place) city council.”

Richards is looking forward to retiring.

“I’ve been working since I was 12 years old,” he said. He worked at gas stations and restaurants before joining the police force in Vancouver, Wash. in 1967.

“I’m old enough," he said. "I can retire." 


Karen Miller: 253-358-4155

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