ROY — After a little more than a year as Roy's city manager, Jason Poulsen plans to step down and return to the Roy Fire Department.
His planned departure doesn't stem from dissatisfaction with his job overseeing day-to-day administration of Roy, though. Indeed, Poulsen — who served as Roy fire chief before becoming city manager last year — contemplates returning to City Hall again someday, after what would be his third stint in the Roy Fire Department.
"I love the city. I love the direction we're going the last year-and-a-half. We've done a lot of good things," he said.
Rather, his planned resignation as city manager and return to the Roy Fire Department on Jan. 1 to take a captain's post is made with an eye to his long-term future. He's worked more than 18 years in varied firefighting capacities in Utah and if he gets in another 18 months, breaking the 20-year mark, he qualifies for a Tier 1 pension as a public safety employee in the state.
"It makes total sense," Poulsen said. The pension "brings some stability" to his life.
His plans took Mayor Bob Dandoy, who took office last January, by surprise.
"We're shocked. I'm telling you, I didn't even see this one coming," he said. City leaders will be seeking what would be the fifth city manager since 2014, he said, "and that's just disheartening for me."
Chris Davis served as city manager for around 13 years before resigning in August 2014. Andy Blackburn and Jay Baughman served in subsequent stints over the next three years and then Poulsen was appointed city manager in August 2017. With Poulsen's appointment, Dandoy had told the Standard-Examiner soon after taking on mayoral duties last January that he had hoped to bring a measure of stability to the office.
Now, city leaders will start the search for Poulsen's replacement, first looking for candidates among city employees before searching further afield, if necessary.
Dandoy lauded Poulsen's service as city manager. "He was doing great things. Him and I had a great working relationship," the mayor said.
Likewise, Poulsen pointed to several accomplishments during his tenure. Morale at City Hall is up, the city finalized a controversial annexation process and key personnel changes were made among city staffers. "The city's in a super good spot," he said.
COULD FACE A PAY CUT
After 30 years of public service, combining his stints as a Utah firefighter and at Roy City Hall were he to remain, Poulsen, 43, would qualify for a Tier 1 pension as a public employee. But he worried about the uncertainty in waiting another 11-and-a-half years as city manager to reach the 30-year mark, prompting his decision to take the fire department post.
Poulsen served as Roy fire chief from mid-2012 until taking the city manager's job last year. He also served in the Roy Fire Department in the 1990s and 2000s as paramedic and captain before a stint as chief in the Clearfield Fire Department in the early 2010s.
When taking the city manager's post, Poulsen figured he would potentially return to firefighting at some point to qualify for the 20-year public safety pension. But he decided to take the job at City Hall because of need. "We knew that there were some positive changes that needed to be made," he said.
Now, with the retirement of a Roy fire captain, the timing is right, he thinks, to jump back to the fire department. Though Roy will presumably have a new city manager when Poulsen reaches the 20-year mark as a firefighter, he said he'd be willing to take another role were he to return to City Hall after that, as assistant city manager, perhaps.
In returning to the fire department, Poulsen could face a pay cut, notwithstanding the pension he stands to earn after 20 years in service.
According to data managed by the Utah Division of Finance, within the Utah Department of Administrative Services, Baughman earned $141,837 in wages and benefits as Roy city manager in 2017. That's the last year with available data. The highest paid fire department captain that year earned $129,378 in wages and benefits while, Poulsen, as fire chief, earned $157,873.
Current wage figures for 2018 weren't immediately available.