Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood announced the appointment of three key positions in his administration, and noted the selection process has resumed for another, during the May 18, 2020, meeting of the Bellingham City Council.
“My entire department head team has been doing remarkable work, demonstrating dedication, creativity and leadership during unprecedented circumstances as we respond together to the COVID-19 crisis," Mayor Fleetwood said. “I am particularly pleased to make and announce these appointments. They have my full confidence and respect."
Fire Chief Bill Hewett
Bill Hewett, who has served as Interim Fire Chief since March 2019, was appointed permanently to the position by Fleetwood in mid-March. His appointment coincided with the beginning of the City's COVID-19 response, and, since then, Hewett also has served as the City's lead representative to Whatcom Unified Command. Hewett's nearly 30 years of fire service has included operations, training, dispatch, code enforcement, and fire investigation. He grew up in Bellingham and got his start in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter in Whatcom County. He was hired by the Bellingham Fire Department in 2013 as part of a consolidation with Fire District 8, most recently serving as Assistant Fire Chief.
“Chief Hewett has impressed me with his firm command of the fire service and all things related to his department. I'm honored to appoint him to this position," Mayor Fleetwood said.
Communications Director Janice Keller
Janice Keller was temporarily re-deployed as Acting Communications Director for the Mayor's Office in mid-March to assist with COVID-19 communications. Fleetwood asked her to permanently fill the vacant Communications Director position earlier this month. Keller has more than 30 years of public sector communications experience and has worked for the City of Bellingham for 19 years, including serving in lead communications roles 2001-2014 for four previous Bellingham mayors. She most recently was the Communications Manager for the Bellingham Public Library.
“I have worked with Janice previously and was thrilled that she accepted my offer to again become the City's Communications Director," Mayor Fleetwood said. “Her experience and knowledge of how the City operates, as well as the relationships she has built over the years, will serve us well moving forward."
Public Works Director Eric Johnston
Eric Johnston, P.E., who has served as Interim Public Works Director since August 2019, accepted a permanent appointment earlier this month. Since joining the City of Bellingham in 2012, Johnston has led many facets of Public Works operations and most recently served as Assistant Public Works director. He has 20 years in the engineering field, with 18 in the municipal engineering sector and two years in private consulting. Before coming to Bellingham, Johnston was City Engineer for Oak Harbor, Washington.
“Eric is a well-respected and highly competent leader of his department," Mayor Fleetwood said. “In the short time we have worked together I have been impressed with his qualifications and his contributions to our team, particularly during our COVID-19 response. I look forward to continuing to work with him."
Parks and Recreation Director process resumes
In addition, the selection process for a new Parks and Recreation Department director will resume in June, Mayor Fleetwood said. The process was well underway but suspended in March when the City's COVID-19 response began, he said. Parks Development Manager Nicole Oliver has been serving as interim director since Leslie Bryson retired at the beginning of January, 2020.