June 22, 1998
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--Roy Rainey called things as he saw them, and not everyone in Woodinville liked that. He was straight-forward and sent clear messages, his supporters say. His detractors called him "militaristic," "out of control" and said he cursed, yelled and belittled people.
Last week, the Woodinville City Council took the first steps towards removing the 68-year-old native of Enid, Oklahoma from his post as City Manager after complaints on his management style with staff and the council's boards and commissions boiled to the surface. There were mixed feelings afterwards.
Phyllis Keller, a 26-year resident of Woodinville, said she was sad it came to this.
"I admired him and his sense of humor. His presence in City Hall will be definitely missed," she said. Karen Steeb, Tree Board chair, felt otherwise. "It tells me that the principles on which the city was founded, citizen involvement, (are) still in place," she told the Eastside Journal.But the question that will forever surround Rainey's 14-month term is, was he a man bent on ruining Woodinville or a seasoned administrator leading the city out of a jungle?
Council liked candidness
There was an almost immediate change in town when Rainey came in as the interim manager in April, 1997. He spoke out during council meetings, something that the former manager, Joe Meneghini hadn't done. He talked about the city's shortcomings on and off the record, offering his sometimes unpolished opinions whenever asked. He told jokes at council. "I've always been the type who says if you don't want an answer, don't ask the question," he said, but noted there were drawbacks. "I don't care where you are in this day and age, that'll get you in trouble." Still, the council liked his candidness and humor and with the support of staff unanimously hired him to a three-year term last September.
Rainey had one basic expectation, said Carter Hawley, assistant city manager, and that was do what he asked. Those who fought only made him speak louder. But Wendy Weidenmeyer, whose desk sits right outside Rainey's door, could only recall one yelling match involving the manager since she came here in March, 1997. As for the swearing, she said it was a part of the way he talked.
As time wore on, even supporters like Councilwoman Marsha Engel noted a change in Rainey. He became more brusque, she said. Mayor Don Brocha told the Seattle Times that Rainey didn't seem to be the same man now the city had hired last year.
Rainey managed to upset just about everyone there was to upset. He called King County's ditching and drying up of Trib 90 "a public relations' nightmare, a public works fiasco and an environmental disaster." When tree issues were being routed through his office last September, he asked, "Does God have to check with the Tree Board before he waters the trees, makes them grow or lets the leaves fall?" But he says he didn't, as claimed, say the best number of citizen boards was zero. Rather, he said he told the Planning Commission that the favorite saying of the first city manager he worked for was "if you have to have boards and commissions, the proper number is zero."
He stepped on toes at City Hall and didn't call back newspapermen. And he didn't win any friends with the utility or admissions taxes either. Sources say the end for Rainey has been coming since the beginning of this year.
Rainey will have left a positive mark on Woodinville. Under his administration, the city has begun to address downtown traffic congestion by planning to improve N.E. 177th Place. He craftily maneuvered Snohomish County into court on the Grace annexation and negotiated hard with the Northshore School District on the Sorenson Complex purchase. He raised staff salary an average of 6.3 percent last year, and finally hired an employee to address land use and sign code enforcement.
Woodinville will be the fifth and maybe final city Rainey has managed in his 30-year administrative career. It was also the shortest term of office he's had.
Wrong form of government for city?
At a staff meeting last Tuesday morning to announce the council's action, Rainey spoke frankly on some of the issues he believes led to his demise. "The problem in Woodinville is we don't understand our form of government," he said. Here, he ran up against a council and community that wanted more to do with the city's day to day operations. Those were his charges in a council-city manager form of government like Woodinville's. He said the city had likely adopted the wrong form of government at incorporation and said that Woodinville really is more like the "strong" mayor-council type of municipality, in which the mayor is in charge of the city and maintains boards and commissions.
Rainey began his career in public service as a park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park 40 years ago. He completed course requirements for the Masters of Art of Public Administration classes at Oklahoma State University and held a number of city positions in Norman, Oklahoma in the late 1960s and early 70s. In addition, he managed Glenwood Springs, Colorado for almost three years, and after that he was Soda Springs, Idaho administrator for three years, Brookings, Oregon manager for two-and-a-half years, and Sun Valley, Idaho's administrator, clerk and treasurer for six years before semi-retiring in 1996.
Asked if his outspokeness had gotten him in trouble elsewhere, he said, "yes and no."
But all of his gruff exterior fell away for a moment last Friday when, in his office, he produced a hand-written note from Brocha. It read to the effect, "You're doing a great job. Keep up the good work." Rainey looked hurt, and shook slightly. Six days after receiving the note, the council and Brocha, had ousted him. Rainey said he won't issue a parting statement as reported.