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Facilitator pick ignites heated council discussion

POULSBO — Even though it wasn’t on the agenda, the selection of the facilitator for the city’s visioning process lit the fuse to a powder keg exchange between council members Wednesday night.

Finance committee members Jeff McGinty and Mike Regis had discussed the issue at length with Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln earlier in the evening, but didn’t bring it to the full council.

However, a comment by Councilwoman Kathryn Quade about the selection of the facilitator put the issue squarely before the elected body.

“If it is the same facilitator as the first time, I would like to bring that up for discussion,” Quade told fellow council members.

“When we get to the selection of the facilitator, I want to open it up and would like to have a discussion before we go with a handpicked choice,” she added, asking Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln about the possibility of a request for proposals for the visioning facilitator.

Such a request would delay the visioning process for more than two months and possibly five or six months, Lincoln replied.

Visibly irked by Quade’s suggestion, Councilman Dale Rudolph pointed out that the public works director put a substantial amount of time and effort into his recommendation of Pat Edwards as the facilitator,

“If council wants to entertain a formal RFP, it would set the visioning process back, and I have no idea what the problem is,” Rudolph explained.

Most people in the community haven’t been involved in visioning processes and don’t have a clear idea of what the facilitator’s role entails, he said.

“Their job is to help keep things going smoothly, not direct it,” Rudolph said. “The facilitator should be almost an invisible person and the committee should do most of the work.”

The goal of the visioning process should be to get the Poulsbo that the community wants, Councilman McGinty interjected.

“If we’re going to say we don’t like a particular individual or company, we should be able to define what we want,” McGinty said, asking Quade to explain her issue with the facilitator selection.

“I don’t believe, concerning the magnitude of what we are considering, we should rush forward with any old facilitator,” Quade responded. “I think it should be someone who has worked in this venue before.”

While expressing an understanding of Quade’s sentiments, McGinty said he doesn’t want the community to feel constricted in the process, but if given a choice of four, he’s not sure if he could make the proper choice.

“I don’t know how to pick a facilitator and I’m not sure if I’d pick a good one or a bad one,” McGinty explained.

However, Rudolph fired back saying that while it would be great if the council had a choice of four facilitators, members still don’t know what they like or don’t like.

“It is the professional recommendation of the public works director that this is someone who can do the job, and we need something other than we didn’t like him or his style,” he said.

Quade responded saying that people want to feel comfortable with the facilitator during the visioning process and many weren’t at the first visioning workshop.

“Can you tell us what made you feel uncomfortable?” Rudolph asked.

The first facilitator was not as in tune with the people in attendance as he should have been and cut the process short on several occasions, Quade explained.

“I really object to proceeding forward so quickly when we can see if there’s a better choice,” she said.

The problem with the facilitator may not have been the facilitator himself, but the guidance he was given, Rudolph replied.

“To say you were unhappy with him when he was doing what he was told, maybe that was the problem,” he said. “Frankly, I think this is unprofessional.”

Sensing the rising hostility in the room, Councilman Regis quietly said, “Madam mayor, I move to adjourn tonight’s meeting.”

With a unanimous vote, the council ended the meeting leaving the facilitator discussion for an upcoming meeting.

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