The first stage of defining how to hire a new Crested Butte town manager was passed by the council at the regular meeting on Monday, December 17. Ads will be posted with publications and online services associated with professional organizations such as the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado City and County Manager’s Association and the International City Managers Association. The Crested Butte News will also run a help wanted ad.
The job notice will likely be posted by the end of the month but no later than the first week of January. The deadline to submit an application will be January 27. The council hopes to have someone working in town hall in the permanent manager’s position no later than June 1. The council was acting on recommendations from a recently appointed human resources subcommittee. The council agreed to not hire an outside recruiting firm to help in the search. The council agreed with some modifications to the job description and they want applicants to have some public management experience, be good with people and be a “good fit” for the community. The longest discussion came over a salary range for the position and a potential list of “characteristics” the council is hoping to see in the finalists. As for salary, the subcommittee suggested offering between $85,000 and $135,000, plus benefits. “The $135,000 seems high, especially given the discussion among some community members in the paper,” commented Councilperson David Owen. “Let’s remember that we have a house set aside for the manager if it’s needed.” “The top range seems very high to me,” added Councilperson Jim Schmidt. “People applying for a job always see the high part of the range and ask for the top end,” said Councilmember John Wirsing. “The idea was that having that high end might attract very high quality candidates,” explained Mayor Aaron Huckstep, who is a member of the subcommittee. “To me it seems that just about everyone who lives here is underpaid,” said Wirsing. “But we’re here because we want to be.” Huckstep said the suggested range was based on information compiled from the Colorado Municipal League for town manager positions in the state and a 2009 compensation study performed for the town by a firm called Pontifex. “Look, things are still pretty tight here economically,” said Schmidt. “December looks lean and winter is just not that busy. I would rather see the high end of the range closer to $105,000. Owen said the salary would sound better to potential applicants if the ads mentioned that housing assistance might be part of the salary. Councilperson Shaun Matusewicz said the $105,000 or even $110,000 seemed a bit low for the position’s top range. “Comparable towns around Colorado to ours have the broader range,” he said. “What is a comparable town?” asked Councilperson Roland Mason. “I think we should also consider the gap between what the town manager makes and what department heads make.” “It’s also appropriate to look at the gap between the town manager salary and the lowest paid full-time employee of the town,” suggested Schmidt. “And again, the winter economy isn’t looking that great.” The council settled on advertising a salary between $85,000 and $110,000 with benefits that could include housing assistance. The council spent a good deal of time debating where to place the ads. Aside from the professional organizations, the council discussed placing high-priced ads in the Denver Post and the Grand Junction Sentinel. After 20 minutes, acting town manager Bob Gillie suggested starting with the professional organizations. “I know you might be afraid that you’ll miss out on the Messiah, but the CML and CCCMA will likely reach the types of people you are trying to attract. Those that might want the job are probably reading these publications,” he said. “You’ll get a lot of applications from people who are specialized in this realm.” The council agreed and plans to post the ads soon. As for the broader characteristics the council wants to see in the next manager, they began a brainstorming session Monday that will likely carry into a council retreat in early January. “We wanted the council as a whole to have that discussion,” said Matusewicz. “We briefly talked about how someone having economic development experience would be a plus. Having a good understanding of environmental issues might be important.” “We haven’t asked a town manager to focus on economic development before,” pointed out council historian Schmidt. “A lot of communities have economic development staff or departments,” said Owen. “As you pointed out, the winter is slow. The town could use some type of economic development effort moving forward—someone who can help move us in that direction for the welfare of the town.” “What does that mean?” asked Schmidt. “So you bring in a guy whose most likely response is to say that the ski area needs to expand? That’s the logical answer to helping winter business. How does that play here?” “There are other areas like the ice rink that will bring in tournaments and visitors,” said Matusewicz. “There are a lot of options.” “What other characteristics?” asked Huckstep. “Is it important to hire someone who has worked in a resort town? Is it important to have someone who has lived in a high alpine community? What about natural resources experience? Or recreational experience?” “The meat-and-potatoes is that the person must be a good manager,” responded Wirsing. “He or she has to be a strong leader and be able to manage people.” “Fit is so important,” emphasized Matusewicz. The council felt it fair to further develop a list and share it with the applicants. “I agree with Shaun that we ultimately want someone who wants to live in Crested Butte whether they’d get the job or not,” said Schmidt. “I just want to avoid extremists. Whether it’s an extreme tree hugger or an extreme recreationist. Our middles are different from most middles, but we have a lot of different types of people living here.” “Our vanilla has real pieces of vanilla bean in it,” joked Wirsing. “It seems we want someone to go down Crested Butte’s unique road,” said Councilperson Glenn Michel, “someone who can cultivate the Crested Butte sense of place.” It was agreed that the council would continue that discussion at a brainstorming session in January.