Stakes are high in search for Steamboat’s next city manager |

Stakes are high in search for Steamboat’s next city manager

Stakes are high as City Council kicks off recruiting process

Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark laughs as she reads what city employees wrote to her on a card during her last day in City Hall. Hinsvark received well-wishes and hugs from several city employees on her last day.
Scott Franz

If you go

The Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss the recruiting efforts for a new city manager on Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Citizens Hall. Public comment will be accepted. The agenda item is one of the council's first at the meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

— As the city of Steamboat Springs prepares to kick off a five-month-long search for a new city manager, City Council members are motivated to hire someone who can bring more stability to a position that has seen a lot of turmoil and turnover in recent years.

The start of the recruiting effort comes as some community members have questioned the effectiveness of the city council and city manager form of government because of the short, rocky tenures of the city’s most recent managers.

Some residents have even called for a change to a stronger mayoral form of government.

Council President Pro-Tem Jason Lacy said Monday the concerns community members have raised about the relationship between councils and managers are among the several reasons he feels it’s important council hire a manager who can prove the system still works.

“People in this community have been rightfully concerned and frustrated with the last few city managers we had, and hopefully, they can understand that’s just a blip on the radar, and if we focus on finding the right person, we can right the ship and show this is a form of government that works,” Lacy said.

Steamboat’s past three city managers all had relatively short tenures that ended amid rocky relationships with their seven bosses on the council.

But in a city where city managers have collectively lasted an average of only two years and 10 months since the job was created in 1973, current council members and an executive search firm are optimistic they will find someone who is eager to lead the city and enjoy a long tenure.

Much of that could depend on the upcoming recruitment process being led by Slavin Management Consultants, an executive search firm that touts a record of having 95 percent of its placements remain on the job for at least five years.

Step one in the process will involve the council meeting Jan. 5 with the search firm to discuss what characteristics and qualifications the council is looking for in its next top employee.

A job posting could go out shortly after that.

The meeting next week will give the public a chance to weigh in on the search process.

Lacy suggested the council could consider a wide range of options to further involve the community in the hiring process. Those options include appointing a hiring committee that includes citizens or holding public open houses with the finalists.

“Or it could be all of the above,” Lacy said. “This is a really important hire we need to get right, and I want to make sure we maximize as much community input as we can.”

In its proposal to City Council, the search firm proposed meeting with some stakeholders and other leaders in the community to learn about the city’s needs and what the community wants to see in its next city manager.

According to a proposed timeline for the search submitted by Slavin Management Consultants, the city manager candidates would have until Feb. 22 to submit resumes, and finalists would be interviewed by the council in late April.

Council last month decided to pay the search firm $23,459 to help find the next city manager.

Hit the ground running

The agenda for whoever is hired is already heavy.

The city’s next city manager will have to immediately help City Council oversee a multi-million dollar renovation project downtown, construct a new police station and improve the community’s trust in the city government in the wake of a police scandal.

Interim City Manager Gary Suiter also offered his own forecast of some of the challenges the next permanent manager will have to tackle here.

At a goal setting retreat with City Council earlier this month, Suiter said council and the city’s next manager together will have to develop a more sustainable financial plan for the city.

Suiter called the state of municipal facilities here “embarrassing” and suggested that having the general fund and sales tax revenue as the city’s sole sources of revenue would not be sustainable in the long term.

As demands for service ranging from new bus routes to recreation facilities and other city services increase, Suiter said, so will the demand on the general fund.

“There are all kinds of options out there,” Suiter said after naming off a list of alternative funding sources ranging from special taxing districts to a regional transportation district. “I would submit this community needs to face those issues and develop a long-term financial plan.”

“The community deserves better facilities,” Suiter continued. “It’s a little bit embarrassing given who you are and your level of sophistication here.”

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

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