Washington: Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island City Manager and WCMA President

Posted on July 18, 2013

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Fifty Nifty Takeaways

What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from other’s mistakes than yours. With that said, on to the main event, the first ever installment of the Fifty Nifty which has the same feel as Opening Day in baseball, Christmas Eve, the ol’ TGIF on ABC, and the Fiscal (New) Year.

P.S:  Contribute to the Fifty Nifty project by sending those names in your lil’ black book to ELGL. Here’s who is on the list so far: Updated 7/8: Contribute to the Fifty Nifty Project

Our Take on Washington State

An ELGL goal this year is to build connections with government professionals in Washington state. One way we’ll do this is by making multiple stops in the Evergreen State on the Fifty Nifty tour. Today we hear from Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island city manager, and we will return later in the tour to hear from the likes of Charlie Bush, Issaquah deputy city administration and Julie Underwood, Shoreline city manager.

When we think about Washington state, we immediately think of grunge rock, casinos, Microsoft, Mt. St. Helen’s and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. When we actually take an educated look at Washington state, we find a number of surprising facts.

  • Approximately 60 percent of Washington’s residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area. Spokane and Tacoma are the next two largest cities.
  • Washington is a leading lumber producer.
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot and Presidents of the United States are from Washington state.
  • Although the proper vernacular should be “The State of Washington,” it is often reversed and referred to as “Washington State” to distinguish it from Washington, D.C., also named for George Washington.
  • Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee Dam
  • Residents are still angry the Sonics left.
  • Washington ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California.


Name: Doug Schulze

Position: City Manager,  City of Bainbridge Island

Prior Experience: City Manager, City of Normandy Park; City Manager, City of Medina; City Administrator, City of Sandstone; Assistant City Administrator, City of Savage

Published Works: Too Little Time to Wear All Those Hats?

Education: Minnesota State University, Mankato, B.S., Public Administration and Minnesota State University, Mankato, M.A., Urban & Regional Studies

Connect: LinkedIn

Connect with the City of Bainbridge Island: Facebook and the Web

Background Check


Doug Schulze was named city manager of Bainbridge Island in September 2012 and has more than 25 years of experience in local government management. Before Bainbridge Island, Schulze spent six years as manager of Normandy Park, a city of 6,700 sandwiched between SeaTac and Puget Sound. Schulze also spent 10 years as manager of Medina, a small, affluent city north of Bellevue, home to Bill Gates. Schulze was instrumental in earning accreditation for the Medina’s police force.

Schulze’s first city administrator position was in Sandstone, Minn., population 2,200, from 1992 until 1996. He worked as an assistant administrator in Savage, Minn., while earning a master’s degree in urban studies from Minnesota State University.

Cliff Notes on Bainbridge Island

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Bainbridge Island is a city in Kitsap County with population of 23,025 at the 2010 census. In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine named Bainbridge Island the second-best place to live in the United States.

A 2008 survey of community values revealed that island residents are committed to preserving the sense of community and green spaces – agricultural land, forests, parks and trails. We cherish the natural beauty of our island home, the stately firs and cedars, scenic bays dotted with small boats and views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the west and majestic Mount Rainier to the east.

Famous Residents: Jay Inslee – Governor of Washington, Jon Brower Minnoch – heaviest man recorded in history, Meg Greenfield – editor, The Washington Post editorial page, and Chad Channing – musician, former drummer with Nirvana

In Michael Crichton’s Disclosure, Bainbridge Island is the home of protagonist Tom Sanders. In That Thing You Do!, Guy Patterson and Faye Patterson (nee Dolan) move to Bainbridge Island after the end of the main story and raise their four children, as well as start a music conservatory

Lightning Round

Best piece of advice from your parents.

Honesty, hard work and persistence are keys to success.

In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party.


  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Phil Collins and
  • Jimmy Buffett

(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to……spend as much time as I can with family and friends.

[ted id=1553]

Most influential books in your life.  

  • The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey
  • My American Journey by Colin Powell
  • Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success by John Wooden & Steve Jamison

If you could Facetime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

  • Colin Powell
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Sun Tzu

Describe the inside of your car:

Clean, but well used. Not the inside of a car owned by a car fanatic, but clean enough so I’m not embarrassed to give someone a ride.

What’s the meaning of life?

Positively impacting other loves and contributing to the common good.

The Interview

Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in Washington.

  • Most responsive level of government to the voters;
  • Economic engines of the state; and
  • Challenged to remain sustainable.

We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government? 

When I was young I wanted to be an architect. My first local government job was an administrative assistant position in Savage, Minnesota. I took an Intro to Public Administration class and the professor was from my home town. We talked one day after class and he encouraged me to pursue a career in public administration.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

  • Construction of a 9-hole municipal golf course and clubhouse with volunteers, which saved the City over $1 million.

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.  

Early in my career, I spent too much time trying to change employees who were poor performers and did not take action quickly enough to replace poor performers. To be successful, you have to replace the poor performers.

Pay close attention to construction contract language. Low bidders can be experts at finding ways to charge more through change orders and force accounts.

Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor.” Has this been your experience? How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?  

Most people do not know what a city manager is or does and I have been asked by many people, including family, to explain what I do. Most city managers prefer to quietly work behind the scenes so, we don’t do a very good job of promoting the profession or explaining what it is that we do. One of the tools I am excited about is ICMA’s Life, Well Run Campaign – I believe this campaign will be a great help, but we will need more like it.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?

It depends on the individual’s personality and life goals. A local government career isn’t for everyone and many people aren’t going to be successful or happy with a career in local government.

Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impression.  

  • Arrive 5 – 10 minutes prior to the meeting time;
  • Be prepared – demonstrate that you have done some homework;
  • Show enthusiasm about the position, organization and public service.

Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

  • David Childs – city manager and past ICMA president
  • Ron Bartels – ICMA Range Rider

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be …………

forced to consolidate, collaborate and cooperate to remain sustainable and continue to provide basic services.

What question(s) should we have asked you?

After 25 years of local government management experience would I do it over again?  

Yes, without question. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Supplemental Reading

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