Community Government

City administrator Knutson makes mark by encouraging engagement

Posted on July 26th, 2022 By:

When Katrina Knutson was confirmed as Gig Harbor’s new city administrator last month, it was the fulfillment of a goal she set years ago. It just didn’t happen exactly how she’d planned.

Knutson had a 10-year career objective to land a position in city administration. She wanted to “be part of what makes a city run smoothly, and help build relationships among city staff and with our community.”

That didn’t specifically mean a job as city administrator. But when Mayor Tracie Markley offered her the position in June, she accepted.

Navigating controversial projects

The city hired Knutson in March 2016 as its first parks administrator. Before that, she worked for more than a decade as a senior long-range planner in Kitsap County.

In that role, according to Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, she was “especially good at engaging the public and drawing the community into discussions about important issues.”

Her stint as Gig Harbor parks administrator put her at the center of several controversial projects. Among them was a failed attempt by then-mayor Jill Guernsey to build nearly three dozen additional transient moorage spaces at Jerisich dock and the Maritime Pier.

Knutson also was thrust into the debate over the canoe and kayak storage facility the city was building at Ancich Park. Part of the building was for the private Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Club, causing some division.

It was finally completed this spring and all the storage spaces are rented. And there’s a waiting list.

Gig Harbor City Administrator Katrina Knutson

Gig Harbor City Administrator Katrina Knutson Tiffany Burke Photography

A new role as community development director

Her success in handling parks-related tasks earned her the respect of city staff and citizens. Kit Kuhn, elected mayor in 2018, promoted Knutson to lead the newly formed community development department. The new department combined the planning department and building and fire safety division.

Knutson excelled in her role as community development director.

“I’m sort of a planner at heart,” she said. “It’s such an interesting field and growth is so important to this community. And the department is doing such cool stuff right now with the comp plan update and the design manual update and other on-going projects.”

Tracie Markley became mayor in January, the third mayor Knutson has worked under.

One of Markley’s first tasks was to hire a new city administrator. Markley selected Linda Kelly after a lengthy screening process. Kelly resigned just a few weeks into the job, citing an undisclosed illness.

Markley asked Knutson to fill in until a new city administrator was hired.

In June, Markley announced that Knutson had agreed to take the city administrator job full time.

“Katrina has tremendous knowledge of city policy and procedures and she has the trust and respect of our staff,” Markley said. “I’m confident that she’ll be an effective, thoughtful city administrator.”

Supporting the mayor, council

Knutson thrives as part of a team that’s “very focused on whatever they’re working on, and working with a City Council that’s very engaged and attentive and willing to look at the political complexity of issues. We’re really fortunate to have an amazing city council, with every councilmember willing to roll up their sleeves and do whatever they can for the betterment of our city.”

Knutson sees her role as being “100 percent in support of the mayor. Tracie is committed to building bridges, not walls. We have a very high-functioning team here at the city, and we have citizens who are really passionate about this community and really care about what happens here.”

‘The connective nature” of Gig Harbor residents impresses Knutson. “Civic engagement and involvement are key to our democracy.

“I think that government needs to show leadership, and at the same time we need to show that we’re human, and that the citizens can talk to us.

“We want our citizens’ input, but we need to remember that people aren’t born knowing how to deal with the government, so part of my job is to build relationships and help them have a voice.”

Knutson is likely to be found cooking a gourmet meal when she’s not tending to the business of the city. Or kayaking, camping or just hanging out with her husband, Lars, and their son, Dane. Or shooting photos of anything that catches her eye, or, most recently, painting. Or tending her beloved Artondale-area garden, where she grows most everything from seed.

“It’s a great place to unwind and escape to,” she said.