Mercer Island City Manager Rich Conrad announced plans Friday to step down from his role as the city's lead administrator by the end of 2013 in an announcement made at the city's annual planning retreat.
Conrad has served as the City Manager since 1996, and began working for the city in 1979.
In a memo to city staff — whom he refered to as "City Family", Conrad said he had always targeted 35 years "as my goal line for a career" of civil service.
"Many of you have heard me say that what “gets me up in the morning” is the thought of coming in and spending time with my co-workers and colleagues," he said. "This was totally my decision and done in exactly the way I wanted it done – I am blessed to go out the way I selected."
Conrad said in the memo that he will stay professionally active but on less than a full-time basis, mixed with a schedule that includes more golf and time with his family.
Sometimes skeptical in the past, Mercer Island's top elected officials offered unreserved praise.
"Those of us who have worked closely with Rich know that he’s succeeded in large part because he brings a rare combination of wisdom and heart to what he does," said Mayor Bruce Bassett. "Rich is leaving both the City and community in solid shape. Under his leadership, Mercer Island is weathering the recession without either significant reductions in services or loss of the staff who provide those services. His vision of a sustainable Mercer Island is beginning to come into focus."
"Rich Conrad has overseen and stewarded Mercer Island for so many years now that he is entitled to claim credit for much of what we consider to be the best of Mercer Island governmental services," said Deputy Mayor Dan Grausz. "That includes top notch police and fire departments, a phenomenal parks system, well-maintained roads and trails and responsive social services programs. He has devoted most of his career to Mercer Island and we are a much better community for him having done so. He leaves huge shoes to fill."
The praise came from other cities as well.
"As a fellow city manager, I have always been impressed with Rich’s desire to link the education community with the city management profession," said Jay Covington, Renton's Chief Administrative Officer. "He has worked to create opportunities for student internships, for senior executive training, and to strengthen the understanding of academia with the “real world in-the-trenches” work of city management ... You all have had one of the best at your helm since 1996, and we are all the better for it."
Conrad began working at the city as a research assistant to the City Manager, according to the city website. He was promoted to Assistant City Manager in 1989, and has served as the City Manager since 1996.
Conrad has worked on many issues over the course of his leadership in City Hall, including parks and pool transfers from King County, District Court services, Jail services and the King County Budget Advisory Task Force, according to the city. Conrad has also served on various regional boards (some of which he has chaired) related to affordable housing, public safety communications and the E-Government Alliance, as well as on the Suburban Cities Association Management Board.
He is past president of the Washington City/County Management Association, and has a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and M.P.A. from the University of Washington.
Under state law, the process to hire a new city manager must be organized by the city council, according to the city's charter as a code city operating under a "council-manager" plan of government. The process to find Conrad's replacement is expected to begin in the second-half of 2013.
(Ed. Note: Additional information was added to this story as it was made available to Mercer Island Patch.)