The Bothell City Council fired longtime City Manager Bob Stowe, saying they wanted a change in leadership. Stowe is credited with helping recruit McMenamins to the city but was criticized for not paying enough attention to neighborhoods.
The Bothell City Council has fired longtime City Manager Bob Stowe, who is credited with guiding downtown redevelopment efforts over the past decade but criticized by some for slighting other city priorities, including neighborhoods and roads.
Stowe was on vacation Tuesday night and not present for the 5-2 vote, but Mayor Andy Rheaume, a critic of Stowe’s, said he’d talked with the city manager over the past few months and the firing should not have come as a surprise.
“We think it’s time for new leadership, for fresh perspectives for the city,” Rheaume said Wednesday.
Stowe’s contract allows him to be fired without cause. He will receive up to a year’s salary, depending on whether he finds a new job in that time, said city spokeswoman Barbara Ramey. She said he was not available for comment Wednesday.
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Stowe, who took over as city manager in 2005, was earning $188,000 a year.
Assistant City Manager Peter Troedsson will manage the city until a replacement for Stowe is hired.
Former Mayor Joshua Freed and Councilmember Del Spivey cast the “no” votes Tuesday. A vote on Stowe’s job was not on the agenda, and Freed and Spivey objected to the lack of public notice.
Freed called Stowe a “phenomenal leader” and noted that the downtown redevelopment attracted $300 million in private investment, including new hotels, apartment buildings and the restoration of the old Anderson School into a McMenamins restaurant and entertainment complex.
Stowe is also credited with helping recruit McMenamins, which opened in October, and with steering the city’s oversight of the company’s $26 million restoration of the school.
Ann Aagaard, a 40-year Bothell resident and environmental activist, said Stowe’s focus on the downtown meant that other city priorities suffered, including roads and environmental protection. She also said the city manager showed little respect for council members who questioned his plans.
“He has been highly dismissive of even the new council majority,” she said.
Two new members elected in November, James McNeal and Davina Duerr, joined Rheaume and Tris Samberg to form a new majority. The upheaval was set in motion by the city’s decision in 2014 not to buy the back nine of the Wayne Golf Course, long sought by residents for parkland.
The controversy was inflamed when then-Mayor Freed, a developer of high-end housing, bought the property after the city’s purchase option expired. At the time, Stowe defended the city’s action, saying the city already owned conservation rights to the front nine and if parkland was to be purchased, it should be in the Snohomish County portion of the city.
An ethics investigation cleared Freed of any conflict and he later agreed to sell the land to the conservation group Forterra.
But Stowe remained closely identified with Freed and former Councilmember Mark Lamb, Freed’s real-estate attorney. Freed and Lamb made up two of the council’s three-member Economic Development Committee, which worked with Stowe on downtown redevelopment.
Stowe also pushed a controversial funding plan for a $47 million City Hall that opened last year. The plan involved a lease-and-development agreement with a private developer, Vulcan, and a cost of almost $1,000 per square foot for the four-story office building and three-story underground parking garage. That plan wasn’t sent to voters, but was approved by the previous council.