Gary Suiter poised to become interim city manager in Steamboat Springs

Scott Franz

— The Steamboat Springs City Council has extended a job offer to an interim city manager candidate it believes has the experience and skills needed to step into City Hall and “keep a steady hand on the rudder” in the wake of recent turbulence.

Gary Suiter, a management consultant who has spent many years managing cities in Colorado, said Tuesday he feels confident and comfortable stepping into the interim role here for at least the next several months.

Suiter said he intends to accept the job offer once the final details are worked out.

“I believe I can help you out,” Suiter told the council before it extended him the job offer.

Suiter is poised to enter City Hall at a time marked by transition and is expected to play a role in the hiring of a new police chief.

Council members also suggested he will be tasked with helping rebuild public trust in the city administration and the police department following an internal investigation that led to the departures of the city’s top police officials.

Suiter, who appeared confident during a nearly hour-long interview with the council, said his immediate priority in the next 30 days will be to meet with senior management, set expectations and hear about major issues.

He said he would “stabilize the ship,” then reach out to the council to set some strategic goals.

Suiter had several anecdotes about building relationships with councils in mountain towns and overseeing such things as downtown revitalization and infrastructure improvements.

He was also unfazed that he will be working for a council with four brand new members in November.

He described his management style as participative and adaptable.

Suiter will receive a salary and benefits package worth about $17,000 a month.

He will also receive a housing allowance of $1,000 per month.

The council anticipates Suiter will serve until a new council majority, to be seated in November, hires a permanent manager.

Asked if he was interested in the permanent position, Suiter indicated he would be open to the possibility.

In his interview with council, Suiter described his tenures with many other cities and towns across the state and said he had a good track record of bringing councils together and helping them come up with community goals.

He talked about challenges he faced and overcame at his previous jobs, what he thought he could have done differently and what he learned.

Suiter served as city manager of Snowmass Village for 12 years before starting his consulting company.

He recently worked with former city manager Deb Hinsvark as her executive leadership coach.

Asked how his prior work with Hinsvark would help inform his work as Steamboat’s interim city manager, Suiter said he would focus on improving communication between the city manager’s office and the council.

He said he specifically would work to keep the council informed ahead of the media.

“I’m good at that,” Suiter said.

Suiter said it was not good for council members to learn about a municipal story in the next day’s newspaper.

He said Hinsvark had stumbled at times in her communication with council.

“It’s tough,” Suiter said. “It’s the type of thing where some council members want to know everything that’s going on … and other council members who say ‘you just tell me if there’s a hostage situation, then I need to know.’ So there’s this whole spectrum of need-to-know by your council members.”

Suiter also was asked about how he has approached situations similar to the internal police investigation recently conducted here.

“Open communication and transparency is the best way to build trust and restore trust,” Suiter said.

When talking about reports from internal investigations, Suiter said “sometimes you just can’t release everything.”

“I look to legal and ask what’s the law. What can we release, and what’s going to get us sued,” Suiter said.

Suiter became the council’s sole candidate for the interim job here after the two other candidates the council chose to interview withdrew from contention.

One of the candidates withdrew after accepting another job offer only minutes before the interviews began.

Council members said they selected Suiter on his merits and not merely because he ultimatley became the only candidate for the job.

“He has the experience for the job,” councilman Walter Magill said. “I think we could all benefit from his help.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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