Steamboat City Council backs city manager after two members seek her resignation

Scott Franz
The Steamboat Springs City Council has scheduled an executive session for Feb. 24 to discuss the job performance of City Manager Deb Hinsvark. A strong majority of the council backed Hinsvark Tuesday night after two council members sought her resignation.
Scott Franz

URA discussion will continue

After a lot of public input and discussion, a majority of the council committed to investing in downtown Steamboat and decided to have city staff provide more information on eight potential funding mechanisms for downtown improvements. Look for a story on the urban renewal authority discussions in Thursday's Steamboat Today.

— A majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council supported City Manager Deb Hinsvark late Tuesday night after two council members said they wanted Hinsvark to consider resigning because they were unhappy with her leadership.

Council members Scott Ford and Sonja Macys made it clear they want the council to consider starting a search for a new city manager.

The other five council members in the room backed Hinsvark and want to continue working with her.

Ford said he did not appreciate Hinsvark’s management style, which he said consists of having city staff constantly trying to “sell” the council on proposals.

“From parking to (a police station), we as council are presented (with) only one way to go,” Ford said before he made the motion to ask that Hinsvark consider stepping down. “I feel like it’s a freight train.”

Macys has expressed similar criticism of Hinsvark’s management style.

She was one of two council members who didn’t support Hinsvark’s promotion to city manager in March 2013. At that time, Macys said she felt Hinsvark did not go through a competitive hiring process to get the job.

In recent months, Macys has been critical of the city manager’s handling of the project to build a new police station.

Ford’s motion to ask Hinsvark to consider resigning failed 2-5. Ford and Macys were the only council members to support it.

The discussion about the city manager was not on Tuesday night’s agenda and came near the end of the five-hour-long meeting.

A slim majority of the council decided instead to schedule an executive session on Feb. 24 to discuss Hinsvark’s work performance.

Ford’s motion to ask the city manager to consider resigning didn’t sit well with some other members of the council.

Tony Connell said it was a personnel discussion that should happen behind closed doors.

“I feel this is really bad policy and a bad example,” he said. “I think the management days of public flogging are over.”

He said if the council expects to get improvement from the city manager, it needs to help “find that improvement” and give the city manager a chance to produce it.

Like Connell, Kenny Reisman felt Ford’s motion was inappropriate.

“To do this at such a late hour, when it’s not on the agenda, and when it’s an issue that so greatly affects the entire community, is not the right process at all,” Reisman said after the meeting. “It lacks true transparency that we all should be striving for.”

He also expressed support for Hinsvark.

“I think we’ve embarked on this process to try and better her performance and our relationship with her, and to cut that process short right now would be a disservice,” he said.

Walter Magill was eager to dismiss the request for Hinsvark’s resignation and get back to Tuesday night’s agenda.

“I think mistakes were made, and we move on,” he said. “I think we should continue with our regularly scheduled programming.”

Council President Bart Kounovsky said the council has laid out goals and improvements for its city manager, and “I think we need to stick on that path as a council.”

Scott Myller said he trusts city staff and he wants their input “to help the council figure stuff out and come up with the best policies.”

Ford, Macys, Connell and Magill supported scheduling the executive session to discuss the city manager’s performance further, while Kounovsky, Reisman and Myller opposed it.

Hinsvark received a mixed review from the council in November.

She got high scores from the council on fiscal management and her management of day-to-day city operations, but the council made it clear its partnership with her needed improvement.

Interviewed right after Tuesday night’s meeting, Hinsvark said she appreciated having the support of a majority of the council.

“This council has not been 100 percent supportive of my appointment since the day I was appointed,” she said. “It’s not unusual, from what I hear from all the other city managers I talk to, for some council members not to be supportive,”

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

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