After a 9-month search, with national outreach through the Prothman Company, the Sitka Assembly has hired Keith Brady to serve as the municipal administrator. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Sitka Assembly has chosen who they want as their next municipal administrator. The elected official from Utah will take the reins from interim city administrator Phillip Messina next month.

Downloadable audio.

Keith Brady is a 39-year-old motel owner and married father of four based in Green River, Utah.

He cut his teeth in local government as a Green River city council member from 2008 to 2011 and was then elected within Emery County as one of three County Commissioners in 2015.

In his cover letter (P. Keith Brady), said, “I believe experience should trump formal education.” At Collins College in Tempe, Arizona, Brady studied marketing – not city governance.

At a meet-and-greet in Sitka on Friday night (08-18-17), he said his biggest strength is communicating – both within City Hall and with the general public. He reached out to multiple department and researched Sitka in-depth prior to landing.

“There seems to be some mistrust with government. I think there is in general with government, but hopefully if there’s better communication there will be less mistrust and better input from both sides, so the Assembly can say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing and why,’ and also the people can say, ‘Hey, we don’t like,’ or, ‘We do like it,’ and why.

Brady praised recent efforts by the city to redesign their website and as County Commissioner, has maintained a website of his own.

He wasn’t looking for a new job. The Sitka position came across his desk through the Prothman Company, hired by the Assembly to recruit for a new administrator on the heels of Mark Gorman. Brady saw it as a chance to take a big career step and reconnect with his youth, when he lived briefly in Alaska.

“Coming here and having the rain and the smell of the salt air and the foliage brought back a lot of memories for me. It made me happy and I figured coming back to Alaska is just an opportunity for anybody,” Brady said.

Listen to Brady’s full interview here:

Downloadable audio.

In his public interview, the Assembly wanted to know how his approach to developing policy and budgets, leadership style, and the learning curve he faces as a newcomer to Sitka’s government. There’s no harbor system or city-owned electric utility in Emery County, nor any tribal government. Emery County’s budget is $15 million, while Sitka’s budget is $90 million.

The Assembly threw curveballs. Bob Potrzuski asked, “How would you respond to request from members of the community to have the statue of Alexander Baranof removed? Brady answered by saying he didn’t think “history should be whitewashed” and that the statue should remain.

“If we don’t have [the statue] there to remind us, like the phrase says, ‘We’re going to be doomed to repeat [history],’ and that would be a worser travesty than having the statue still up,” Brady said.

And then there was this question, which came from Sitkans researching Brady online: What are your thoughts on climate change? In June, Brady posted on Facebook praising President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Brady told the Assembly that he believes global temperatures are rising, but isn’t sure if mankind is to blame.

“You know, I’m open. I really am,” he said. “But in doing my own research and not listening to talking heads, I would like to find out more — and find out if human-caused climate change is the problem or it’s just a natural phenomenon in our world.”

Brady took down his Facebook page shortly before receiving the job offer from Sitka — for reasons he declined to specify.

In the end, after interviewing three other candidates and two hours deliberating in executive session with nearly a dozen city staff members, Brady rose to the top of the pile.

While he lacks municipal management experience, Assembly members Kevin Knox, Steven Eisenbeisz, and Matthew Hunter felt he had the right personality to learn on the job.

Knox: I am very excited about his approachability.
Eisenbeisz: He’s a very likeable person.
Hunter: He’s going to take direction well and be a team builder, not a micro-manager.

Eisenbeisz encouraged the Assembly to watch Brady’s performance closely. Part of the deal with Prothman is that if Brady leaves within a year, they’ll find a new administrator for free.

On the phone after he got the news, Brady said that visiting Sitka has made the job even more appealing.

“We’re excited to come and hopefully we can get all of us there at some point, as soon as possible,” Brady said. “I’m hoping to be there within the next two or three weeks, really starting the position.”

Less than a day after receiving an official offer letter from the City of Sitka, Brady took the job.