Our view: New city manager ‘gets’ mountain towns | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: New city manager ‘gets’ mountain towns

At issue

Finding the right fit between city council and city manager

Our view:

We’re glad Gary Suiter wants to be the permanent city manager of Steamboat Springs, and we look forward to a long and productive tenure

We were pleased to learn May 7 that a panel of community members had recommended offering the permanent city manager post to Steamboat Springs interim city manager Gary Suiter, who has demonstrated through the course of the past seven months that, not only does he have the administrative skills to improve the performance of city hall, but also the personality to work with City Council while being responsive to citizen inquiries.

Our view:

We’re glad Gary Suiter wants to be the permanent city manager of Steamboat Springs, and we look forward to a long and productive tenure

Like all mountain towns, Steamboat Springs has its quirks, and Suiter’s previous tenure as city manager of Snowmass has prepared him to navigate the issues that come up in an unconventional city with high expectations.

Suiter demonstrated his administrative talents soon after he came to town, hiring a new police chief who was prepared to restore public confidence in law enforcement after a drawn-out investigation of the police department.

Councilman Jason Lacey noted that Suiter had demonstrated a steady hand during that trying time.

“He joined us during some of our darkest days, in early October (2015). “You go back and look at the round robin of city managers we had before that, (and consider that) he came out at a tough time with a lot of concerns from our community,” Lacey said. “He righted the ship in a lot of ways; that’s really the job of an interim city manager.”

Perhaps most importantly, Suiter seems to mesh with this City Council and in particular, with City Council President Walter Magill. Magill said this week that Suiter has proven easy to work with.

That’s especially essential given Steamboat’s form of municipal government, in which city council’s role is to set policy and the city manager’s role is to implement those policies. And part of the city manager’s role includes making certain he or she understands council’s intent.

It was in 1973 that residents of Steamboat Springs voted to opt out of the statutory form of government described by the state of Colorado, which calls for cities and towns to be presided over by an elected mayor. Instead, voters here chose to elect a city council, which would then choose its own president from among the seven members and hire a city manager to do its bidding.

As former longtime city manager Paul Hughes said during a talk for the Tread of Pioneers Museum in the summer of 2015, “It’s a really good form of government. The elected officials decide where we’re going, and the city manager decides how we get there.”

A panel of community leaders tasked with interviewing the four finalists for city manager last week praised Suiter for being transparent, forthcoming, confident and as someone who can hit the ground running.

We also take encouragement from the fact that Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan and Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks were on the panel that endorsed Suiter. Citizens of Steamboat Springs also pay taxes to the county and the school district, either directly as property owners or indirectly as renters.

There has been tension among those three governments in the recent past concerning oversight of the regional building department, in the case of the county and city, and over the city’s desire to create urban renewal authorities.

Not an insignificant part of Suiter’s job will be building trust among the other executives toward the greater good.

We feel fortunate Gary Suiter wants to be the city manager of Steamboat Springs, and we look forward to a long and productive tenure.

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