Doug Russell, a Montana State University graduate and the current city manager in Yankton, S.D., has signed a contract to become the next city manager in Kalispell.
Mayor Tammi Fisher and the city council will approve the hire on April 16. Russell is expected to begin June 18, according to city staff. Details of Russell’s contract will be released this week, City Attorney Charles Harball said.
In an interview with the Beacon on Tuesday, Russell said he and his family are excited to move to Kalispell, a city he’s kept his eye on for years in the event a job opportunity arose.
“Montana is one of those places where we wanted to get back to,” he said. “Now we have the opportunity to do that and we’re excited. It’s something we definitely look forward to being a long-term situation.”
Russell, 38, interviewed for the Kalispell position on March 30 along with two other finalists. A total of 44 people applied for the job after Jane Howington announced her resignation in November to take the city manager position in Newport, R.I.
“I think everybody was very disappointed when Jane Howington left, and now we can turn that disappointment into anticipation and looking forward to a new start with Mr. Russell,” Fisher said.
“He’s a true public servant based on the info I have of him, and I think he will serve this community well.”
Fisher said Russell emerged as the city’s top choice because of his eagerness to live and work in Kalispell and his strong past experience handling city operations responsibly.
“Certainly he’s shown in his past performance his ability to take his initiative and carry it through to implementation,” Fisher said. “And he’s progressive in his ideas but conservative in his budgeting. I appreciate that.”
Russell will step into the role of Kalispell’s chief administrative office with no time to waste. By June the city will be in the middle of budget talks for 2012-13. There will also be the future of both the city airport and the 911 center to plan around, among other immediate agenda items that will surface.
“That’s typically any situation anytime you step into a new position,” Russell said. “You end up depending a lot on your staff and those who have been carrying the ball up to this point.”
Russell has served as the city manager in Yankton since 2008. Before that he was a city manager in Wyoming, where he was born, and Kansas. He graduated from MSU with a degree in psychology in 1996. His wife, Lara, has family in Montana and is also an MSU graduate. They have two children.
Russell has frequented Kalispell in the past for family reunions on Flathead Lake. He said the city stuck in his mind, both as a place he wanted to raise his family and a city he wanted to work for. He said he isn’t alone in that regard, which is why Kalispell’s future is bright.
“As we evolve or as things move forward I think the trend is going to be people will go where they want to live,” he said. “In Kalispell you see everything that it offers and it just provides that sense of place. There’s something that draws people to it.”
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