Search for Whitefish City Manager Centers on Four Candidates

Finalists will interview Sept. 16 with city council and community committee

By Tristan Scott
Whitefish City Manager Chuck Stearns on Dec. 11, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The city of Whitefish has winnowed its search for a new city manager down to four finalists, who will interview for the top administrative role next month.

Chuck Stearns, the city manager for the past eight years, will retire Jan. 6, 2017. He announced his plans to step down in March.

The Whitefish City Council, a community interview committee and a staff interview committee will conduct in-person interviews with the four finalists for the full-time position on Friday, Sept. 16, at the interim Whitefish City Hall. The mayor and city council will then reconvene for an executive session to select a candidate, either on Sept. 16 or Sept. 19.

In alphabetical order, the candidates are: Ken Decker, county administrator in Caroline County, Maryland; Dara MacDonald, former city administrator of Salida, Colorado; Edwin Meece, former city manager of Livingston; and Chuck Winn, assistant city manager of Bozeman.

Decker has worked for Caroline County, Maryland, for five years as the county administrator. He is a Libby native and holds a degree in economics and journalism and a master of public administration and is credentialed through the ICMA voluntary credentialing program. Before his tenure with Caroline County, Decker worked as the town manager for Hampstead, Maryland, for 12 years.

MacDonald previously worked for the city of Salida, Colorado, as the city administrator. She holds a degree in western philosophy and a master degree in urban and regional planning. MacDonald also worked as the community development director in Salida for seven years and has worked for the town of Frisco, Colorado, and Bozeman.

Meece previously worked in Livingston as the city manager. He holds a degree in political science and a master of public administration. Before his tenure with Livingston, Meece worked for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro as the assistant director of public works and general services administration and has held multiple city administrator and management positions.

Winn has worked for the city of Bozeman for 32 years, serving the last eight years as the assistant city manager. Winn spent most of his career as chief of the Bozeman Fire Department, assistant director of public safety, deputy chief/fire marshal, and as a firefighter. He attended Montana State University with an emphasis in sociology and criminal justice.

A total of 29 applicants sought the position, which has operational authority over a city of roughly 6,300, and a seasonal population of about 10,000. The city manager administers an annual budget of roughly $48 million and a staff of about 100. The city of Whitefish advertised the city manager job with a salary range of $100,000 to $130,000, plus benefits, depending on qualifications.

Stearns will end a career in local government that spans nearly 33 years. He took over as city manager in December 2008, emerging as the top candidate among 65 who applied for the job at a time when Whitefish was experiencing significant growth.

He is stepping down after tackling several key issues over his tenure, including financing and completing large, complex construction projects such as the Emergency Services Center, Central Avenue reconstruction and the Second Street reconstruction. Stearns has also helped guide the development of the new Whitefish City Hall and parking structure.

For more information, contact Mayor John Muhlfeld at (406) 250-9301 or by email at

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.