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One local businessman involved in the selection process said Heidi Behrends Cerniwey was succinct and insightful with her answers during the 14-question interview period with local merchants and businessmen last week.

She conducted herself with confidence, with a certain energy, not only supporting her answers with knowledge and understanding based on her particular skillset, but she also possessed the ability to listen and hear what is important to the community, separating her from the other two finalists.

The 53-year-old assistant city administrator for the City of Tumwater was named Ellensburg’s new city manager on Monday when the Ellensburg City Council approved by a 6-0 vote a contract to hire Behrends Cerniwey.

“I’m really happy to coming to Ellensburg and to work with the council. My immediate plan is to come in and meet with the people and better understand the ecosystem of the community and how we can best serve them,” Behrends Cerniwey said in a telephone interview. “I have worked broadly with a lot of different policy areas and I think that was one of my strengths.

“I think it is a good match. Demographic wise, there are a lot of similarities between Ellensburg and Tumwater. One of the things that attracted me to Ellensburg is the really incredible people. Everybody I met from the community to the staff to the council made me feel welcome and I look forward to working with them.”

Behrends Cerniwey, who will receive an annual base salary of $159,216, will start the position on May 17, replacing current city manager John Akers, who is retiring in May after working for the city for 29 years.

“She brings a set of skills that we believe are going to lead us into the future,” Mayor Bruce Tabb said. “I think her energy and organizing skills and her background are what impressed me the most.”

Behrends Cerniwey has also served as the Tumwater’s communications and marketing specialist. She previously supported human resources and public affairs functions at City of Lacey, in addition to serving in other private and nonprofit human resources and human services leadership roles.

She was one of 31 candidates from across the country in a national search, recruiter Greg Prothman said.

“That was a pretty big response and every one of them had a skillset worthy of the position,” he said.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at


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