North Bend City Administrator Duncan Wilson is leaving for Friday Harbor
December 5, 2011
By Dan Catchpole
In his short time here, Wilson has been deeply involved with several major projects in the city that will continue to influence its look, character and development long after he has left.
“It’s been some of the best years of my life here,” he said. “I think we got a lot done.”
The list of projects ushered along during his tenure includes expanding the city’s sewer system, the Tanner Annexation, getting adequate water rights for the city and ending the building moratorium, reaching an agreement with Fire District 38 for a new fire station, and landing a Metro Park’n’Ride station.
None of it would have been possible without his colleagues at the city, he said.
There are projects that he wanted to tackle but won’t be able to get to before setting off.
“I would’ve liked to complete the downtown revitalization effort and build the downtown plaza,” Wilson said. “You can’t do it all at once.”
The greatest challenge during his time here was getting the city out of a state-imposed building moratorium, which necessitated securing more water rights for the city, he said.
The effort required building an extensive — and expensive — water mitigation system that went live in 2009.
But North Bend came out of the 10-year building ban during the Great Recession. There was scant demand for new homes.
“North Bend had its growth stunted a little bit when it lost its water rights,” Wilson said.
When the ban was in effect, neighboring Snoqualmie became the fastest growing city in the state.
At the same time, the ban allowed North Bend city officials to learn from mistakes other cities made during the height of the housing bubble.
“We never wanted to lose that character of what North Bend is,” Wilson said.
Keeping a city’s government running requires constant attention. Wilson compared the city administrator job to plate spinning by Vaudevillian performers.
“You have to keep all the plates going at once,” he said. “You could never step back and look at all the plates, because there’s always one that needs to be spun.”
Regardless of the frenetic pace, Wilson took the offer to take over for Friday Harbor’s outgoing City Administrator King Fitch, because it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Before arriving in North Bend in November 2006, Wilson worked for two years as the Deputy City Administrator in Covington. Before that he practiced municipal and banking law for 25 years. He earned his law degree from the University of Puget Sound, which is now Seattle University’s School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from Western University.
North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing will oversee the search for Wilson’s replacement.
Dan Catchpole: 392-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org.