Kelso City Manager Steve Taylor announced Thursday that he is resigning from the city leadership position to serve as the Cowlitz PUD director of regulatory and regional affairs.
His last working day will be June 14 and his contract will end on June 30. He will start with the PUD on July 1.
“Managing the City of Kelso has been a great honor and the highlight of my career,” Taylor said in his resignation letter to the Kelso City Council. “I am proud of what this Kelso team has accomplished in the past decade and look forward to witnessing the completion of the numerous projects and initiatives currently in the pipeline.”
Mayor Nancy Malone, in a press release, said she appreciated Taylor’s leadership and city management.
“On behalf of the council, we wish Steve the best in his new role with the Cowlitz PUD. He leaves Kelso in a position of strength and has set the table for continued success. Our next step is to begin the search for a new city manager, and the efforts Steve and the management team have made in building and sustaining a quality organization will present a rewarding opportunity for interested candidates,” she said.
Taylor, 43, told The Daily News on Thursday that the new opportunity arose recently and was a chance for him to dive into energy issues, which have interested him since he worked for Spokane Congressman George Nethercutt in 1999.
“The idea of switching over to policy advocacy on issues that are near and dear to my heart just seemed to be a really good fit,” he said.
As city manager, Taylor said he gained advocacy experience while representing the city’s interests in the local and state arena. Most recently, Taylor led the effort to change state law to allow cities to accept contract bids that come within 5 percent of the low bidder and to redistribute local tourism dollars from Cowlitz County to the cities where the dollars were generated.
“I definitely think my work in those areas will translate well into the new position,” he said.
Taylor was appointed city manager in September 2012 and focused on public works improvements throughout the following seven years. He said some of his major accomplishments include securing $50 million in state appropriations, grants and low interest loans for projects, including the Minor Road reservoir, South Kelso railroad grade separation project, Tam O’Shanter Park access improvements and the West Main Street realignment project’s final phase.
While many major projects are still ongoing, Taylor said he wasn’t sad to leave before they are completed because he plans to continue living in the community and will watch his successor bring them to fruition. Taylor lives in Longview with his wife and two children.
Before managing Kelso, Taylor was elected to the inaugural city council of the newly incorporated city of Spokane Valley and then served as city administrator in Connell, Washington. He has worked in a variety of positions in public, private and nonprofit organizations throughout his career, according to the press release. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force, and he holds both a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Eastern Washington University.
The hardest part, he said Thursday morning, will be leaving behind the city staff team.
“I’ve been really proud to see the development of the staff into a single-purpose dedicated team focused on providing quality services to the Kelso community,” he said. “Over the past seven years, I have seen a shift in the direction of the community. There’s more optimism. There’s greater investment and so I think that there is definitely a more positive attitude that the community has as we work through economic recovery and see a stronger working relationship between city and citizens.”
The Kelso City Council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall to discuss the recruitment process for a new city manager.