City Council Hires New City Manager
After a year of instability without a permanent city manager, West Jordan City swore in new city manager Mark Palesh at its Sep. 9 council meeting.
By Taylor Stevens
West Jordan - After over a year of political instability, and in the wake of the abrupt resignation of the city’s permanent city manager and the yearlong appointment of an interim city manager, West Jordan City announced on Sept. 1 that it had selected an applicant to fill the position permanently.
Mark R. Palesh was named West Jordan’s new city manager on Sept. 1 after an hour-long interview process on Aug. 26. His appointment was officially confirmed at the council’s Sept. 9 meeting, where Palesh was sworn in before the council, staff and assembled residents. He began his tenure the next day.
“I’m looking forward to this new opportunity,” Palesh said in a statement released by the city. “My experience in the military, public and private sectors will be an asset to this rapidly growing community. There are many great things happening in West Jordan, and I’m excited to take on this new challenge with Mayor Rolfe and the city council.”
The council approved Palesh’s appointment with a rare 6-0 vote.
“He has the full confidence of every single member of the city council,” Councilmember Chris McConnehey said. “That’s significant to find somebody that we can all agree on. He seems like a good fit; he seems like what we need at this time.”
Palesh has served as a local government chief executive across the United States, from New York and Alaska to Utah. In Utah, he has worked in Lindon, Centerville and Riverton.
He has also had extensive work experience outside of city government. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Air Force Reserve and National Guard Forces, and since 1995, he has worked as managing member/CEO of the Magellan Group, a land development consulting group in Salt Lake City.
Palesh earned a bachelor’s degree from Parks College of Aeronautical Technology and a master of public administration degree from Brigham Young University.
To help find a suitable match for the position, the council employed an “executive recruiting firm,” Waters & Company, to conduct a nationwide search for applicants, a service for which the city paid up to $24,500, according to reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Through this targeted research, more than 1,000 people were notified of the opportunity, and the city received 21 applications for the position. Palesh was among four finalists, who were “selected based on a body of information that included a resume, cover letter, questionnaire and video interview,” according to a city news release. After filing through the applications, the city eventually chose Palesh.
“Mark brings a wealth of experience to our city that will help us move forward and build on the many things that make West Jordan a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Mayor Kim Rolfe said in a statement released by the city. “We are confident in our choice and excited to work together.”
Palesh’s appointment comes a little over a year after the abrupt resignation of the prior city manager, Rick Davis, last August— amidst lawsuit allegations brought forward by a city employee and a controversial severance package worth nearly $200,000—and just three weeks after the council approved an equally contentious pay raise for Interim City Manager Bryce Haderlie.
Palesh’s contract includes a yearly annual salary of $160,000. He will also receive disability and life insurance, medical insurance up to $2,400 annually, 160 hours of executive leave (in addition to vacation leave in line with city policies) and an automobile allowance of $5,590. The agreement also included a six-month severance package.
Palesh currently resides in Midvale with his family and is consequently fully aware of the current climate at City Hall.
“When you look at his proximity to West Jordan City, he’s been there,” McConnehey said. “He’s seen the news. He knows exactly what he’s getting into, and he’s optimistic to move forward.”
Palesh said he anticipates the current climate in City Hall to be one of the biggest challenges he’ll have to overcome as city manager.
“I think the biggest issue that’s been in the council is the council working together as a cohesive team and accomplishing the things they want to accomplish,” Palesh said. “Getting all those seven to work towards a comprehensive plan for the city sometimes takes conscious corrections, so hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
Palesh also wants to focus on improving economic development in the city.
“We have a wealth of property that we can utilize for large development projects and developing the infrastructure to satisfy our needs,” Palesh said.
McConnehey said that Palesh’s approach to economic development—along with his good working relationships across the city—helped solidify Palesh as the right candidate for West Jordan.
“He has a good working relationship with folks from the county and folks on Capitol Hill. He’s been involved in a number of projects with the state, and that’s what we need if we’re trying to grow the city now. He has a lot of connections and relationships that will be beneficial to us as a city. He’s had experience with economic development, and he wants to take a rather aggressive approach to [growth].”
In the District 1 “Meet the Candidates” debate on July 14, McConnehey expressed concern that lacking a permanent city manager had contributed to a feeling of instability in West Jordan’s political climate. Now that the council has filled that position, he said he thinks the city will also gain a certain level of stability.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty as to who’s in charge, who’s doing what,” said McConnehey. “Now that the council has made a decision, there’s a permanent fixture that’s in there. I think we’re going to have some instability during this initial phase—typically you’ll see [when] a new CEO comes in, they spend time reviewing the organization, trying to get a feel for what’s going on, and often you’ll see reorganization or restructuring. We still don’t have a sense of certainty yet because the dust hasn’t settled, but six months from now we’ll be operating in an environment with a permanent city manager and people understanding what’s expected of them.”
Palesh is also confident that he can bring the stability that West Jordan needs to be able to focus on the other issues he’d like to address during his occupancy.
“I think I have a good skill set that will satisfy the needs of the city of West Jordan,” he said.