High hopes for Thompson tenure as he takes reins at the city of Scottsdale

Scottsdale City Council (File photo)

Scottsdale City Council has its man.

The local governing board Thursday, Dec. 8 named Jim Thompson, most recently the city manager at the city of Casa Grande in Pinal County, as its successor to Fritz Behring, who during his short tenure at Scottsdale gained esteemed praise from his peers lauded for his ability to problem solve and build consensus.

“I think it is an excellent opportunity,” said Mr. Thompson in a Dec. 13 phone interview.

“Scottsdale is one of the premier communities in the state of Arizona and being a part of a team that has displayed excellence over the years — that is something I would love to do.”

Jim Thompson

Mr. Thompson will be taking the reins from Brian K. Biesemeyer, Scottsdale water director, who has been serving as acting city manager since June 2015.

Scottsdale City Council formally severed employment ties with former City Manager Behring in March of this year. At the time, Mr. Behring was on a nine-month hiatus as a result from a stroke that occurred during a June 2015 city council meeting.

The city of Scottsdale enlisted the services of The Mercer Group with a contract for $25,000 to handle this final attempt at the city manager recruitment process, records show. The recruitment process was months long and brought in municipal talent from across the nation, city officials say.

Mr. Thompson will have a base salary of $211,162 and receive four weeks of paid vacation annually. He will have an annual allowance of $5,000 for professional development and receive a six-month severance package similar to previous Scottsdale city managers.

“I am not a double-dipper,” Mr. Thompson said pointing out he went after the job in Scottsdale, which negates his eligibility to his state pension fund due to taking the position less than one year before the end of his employment at the city of Casa Grande.

“That shows my commitment at least on the fiscal side because I am foregoing my retirement to continue to be working in Arizona. In my case, I have reached my 80 points in the state system.”

Mr. Thompson gave Casa Grande City Council six months notice of his intent to the leave the position for retirement.

“What a great way to spend my last decade of work,” he said about the opportunity that arose in Scottsdale municipal government. “I felt so strongly about that, and that is why I did what I did.”

Mr. Thompson, who served as Casa Grande city manager from 2003 until earlier this year, oversaw city operations touting a $175 million annual budget. He has also worked over the last 20 years in positions at Bothell, Wash., and Bullhead City.

He has been a member of the Arizona State Personnel Board since 2004. Also, he has been a professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Public Affairs since 2011.

Must seek consensus

A middle ground between all members of Scottsdale City Council was an understanding that former City Manager Behring was a consensus builder and excellent city manager for Scottsdale and those traits were paramount in his successor.

Linda Milhaven

Members of Scottsdale City Council say they believe Mr. Thompson to be cut from that same cloth.

“From talking to him, he is clearly a collaborator and immediately he could bring some great experience and help us navigate the different opinions we sometimes experience,” said Councilwoman Linda Milhaven in a Dec. 13 phone interview. “He had deep and broad experience and did a great job in Casa Grande.”

Councilwoman Milhaven says she expects a sense of fair play from Mr. Thompson’s administration.

“He works for seven councilmembers, so I expect he will be responsive to all seven and serve all seven equally,” she pointed out.

Guy Phillips

“He should also be very respectful and responsive to the community — an internal focus to know what the community conversation is about. He should be delivering great quality service to our citizens and helping the council set the direction and to execute on that.”

Councilman Guy Phillips contends Mr. Thompson has the demeanor to lead Scottsdale forward.

“What I liked the most about Jim Thompson was his demeanor,” he said in a Dec. 13 statement. “He is a proven leader and a driven administrator which is what Scottsdale needs to lead us forward.”

Councilman Phillips says he believes Scottsdale City Council has found the best manager for its city.

“The council worked hard amidst criticism and scrutiny from the public and the media, and I am proud we stood firm in our commitment to find the best city manager for our great city,” he said. “I am confident Mr. Thompson will prove to be the best choice for Scottsdale city manager.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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