Polson police chief to act as interim city manager
POLSON – Polson Police Chief Wade Nash’s job responsibilities have increased since Nov. 7.
At their regular meeting, Polson City commissioners unanimously authorized Nash to act as interim city manager until a contract officially appointing him could be finalized. Nash has been police chief since 2011. He will continue to serve as chief along with his new duties.
The city manager position became vacant when former city manager Mark Shrives declined to renew his contract, which expired Oct. 29. Commissioners voted to offer Shrives a one-year contract renewal rather than the previously negotiated two-year contract. Shrives declined to renew the amended contract. City attorney Rich Gebhardt and city engineer Shari Johnson resigned after Shrives ended his contract.
When Shrives was city manager, Nash took on some of Shrives’ duties when he was out of the office.
Nash asked the commission to immediately authorize a member of city staff to perform necessary tasks while an official interim city manager could be appointed.
“I can’ t express how much confusion this has caused,” Nash said of the recent resignations of city staff.
Mayor Paul Briney said the city needed to appoint an acting city manager in order to hire a city attorney to review pending city documents. Fire chief and streets administrator Clint Cottle said he needed the authorization of a city manager to fill a vacancy in the streets department. A member of the public asked about the status of repairs to the street in front of his business. Shrives had been developing a plan to complete the repairs.
Commissioner Stephen Turner was the first to suggest Nash be appointed. “Wade’s respected throughout the city. Wade knows what’s going on,” Turner said. Realtor Dennis Duty also encouraged the commission to appoint Nash. Duty is involved in the Ridgewater development, which has been a topic of conversation at recent commission meetings. Two additional members of the public also recommended that Nash be appointed.
Some members of the public questioned whether a city manager was the best form of government for Polson. The first Polson city manager was hired in 2006 after residents voted to replace the mayor-council form of government with a manager-commission format.
“Maybe that form of government didn’t work out,” said one community member of the manager-commission format. Another called the city manager format “a dictator system” that disconnects the commission from the community. One member of the public said that having a city manager had brought consistency to the Polson City government.
In 2016, Polson residents voted to maintain the manager-commission format. Every 10 years residents vote to determine the form of government. Finance officer Cindy Dooley said residents could petition to vote on the issue before it is listed on the ballot in 2026.
Polson has a history of high turnover with city managers. The last time the city operated with an interim city manager was in 2013 when commissioners decided not to renew then-city manager Todd Crossett’s contract. Nash will be the seventh full-time or interim city manager in the 11 years since the city manager form of government was first implemented. Shrives’ five-year stint as Polson city manager was the longest of any city manager in Polson’s history.
It took the city nine months to hire Shrives. The city hired an independent organization to conduct the hiring process. The commission will vote to officially install Nash as the interim city manager at a special meeting in council chambers at 5 p.m. on Nov. 13.