Washington City selects new city manager as finalist withdraws after residency concerns

ST. GEORGE — The Washington City Council met in a special meeting Thursday night to vote on the selection of a new city manager and offer the position to one of two finalists selected from over 40 applicants. While a selection was made, it was not without incident as one of the finalists withdrew at the last minute.

The Washington City Council discusses the selection of the next Washington City manager after finalist Matt Loo, who currently serves as the city’s economic development director, withdrew his name for consideration, Washington City, Utah, Oct. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Jeremy Redd, the current city manager in Blanding City in San Juan County, was chosen to be Washington City’s next city manager in a 4-2 vote. The majority of the City Council, including Mayor Ken Neilson, voted for Redd while Council members Kurt Ivie and Kress Staheli opposed it.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Redd has been Blanding’s city manager since 2012 and served as its financial director for five years before that. His education includes a master’s degree in human resource management and a bachelor’s degree in business information systems, both from Utah State University.

“I love working in local government because we have the chance to interact with and be directly accountable to those we serve,” Redd states on his LinkedIn profile. “My private sector background and public sector experience allow me the unique opportunity to run a city with an emphasis on transparency and accountability.”

Redd goes on to tout a background in finance, organizational development, leadership, and technology that has allowed him to build a team that shares his vision and implements an efficient and cost-effective organization.

“Jeremy will be a very good city manager for Washington City,” Neilson said following the council meeting. “I think you’ll find him to be very, very good and very accommodating, but also the kind of manager that will take us to another level.”

At the Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park, Washington City, Utah, Oct. 30, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While the offer for the job has gone to Redd, he was not the first choice for some of the council who voiced their support for Matt Loo, the city’s current economic development director.

Due to personal reasons – as well as speculation from the mayor that a particular city ordnance was beginning to become a wedge issue for some on the council and the city – Loo withdrew his name for consideration via a text message to City Council members and staff just as the meeting began.

“It was a last-minute decision,” Neilson said, adding that while he wasn’t entirely sure how much of a factor it played in the decision, Loo may have withdrawn due to an old city ordinance from 1989 that required the city manager be a resident of the Washington City.

Loo lives in St. George and according to City Council member Roger Bundy, Loo wasn’t keen on the idea of relocating.

“I understand that Mr. Loo is not interested in moving to Washington City,” Bundy said.

Both Neilson and City Attorney Jeff Starkey said it’s been a trend for cities with this type of ordinance to ignore it because it is considered outdated. However, the general application of this kind of ordinance can also vary from place to place, Starkey said. Some cities see the residency requirement as necessary while others do not.

Though disappointed that Washington City Manager applicant Matt Loo withdrew his name from consideration just minutes before the City Council was to vote on the matter, council member Kress Staheli (left) said he will fully support Jeremy Redd as the new city manager, Washington City, Utah, Oct. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Bundy said during the meeting he felt the council was getting ahead of itself and should either adhere to the existing ordinance requiring the city manager to live in Washington City or at least change that part of the ordinance before moving forward.

“The ordnance has to change before it can happen or else we’re breaking our own rules,” he said.

Bundy, along with a majority of the council, voted down a motion initially made by the mayor to extend the city manager job to Loo despite his name being withdrawn.

Neilson said he made the motion so Loo would still be recognized for his efforts.

“He took the high road,” Neilson said of Loo while still speculating that the residency issue played a role in his stepping back from seeking the position.

“Matt’s got a great job here,” the mayor said. “He’s our economic development guy. He’s doing some amazing things right now.”

Vocal in their support for Loo were Staheli and Ivie. Staheli mentioned his disappointment by the sudden turn of events, yet pledged to support Redd as the incoming city manager.

Washington City Hall, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 10, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“As no one supported Matt Loo more than I consider I did, nobody else will support and sustain Jeremy Redd in his success in this position more than me, and I encourage every single one of you to do the same,” Staheli said. “His success is our success.”

Redd will have a plethora of seasoned veterans to help him get settled into the new job once he’s able to relocate to Washington County, Neilson said.

“At the end of the day, this will be really good for all of Washington City,” the mayor said.

Prior to the meeting, the requirement and question of the city manager’s residency had become a point of debate among some city residents over social media. Former City Council member Daniel Cluff and current state Rep. Travis Seegmiller also weighed in, voicing their belief the city manager should live within the city they are hired to serve.

Washington City began the search for a new city manager shortly after City Manager Roger Carter announced over the summer that he was resigning to join the faculty at Southern Utah University full time as an instructor in public administration.

Loo did not return a request for comment by publication time.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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