It’s the old “one door closing and another door opening” scenario. We wish now former Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker luck in whatever her future holds. New opportunities are rarely easy but usually interesting.
And we respectfully ask the current Town Council to look at this new door opening as an opportunity. We will remind the loquacious seven that opportunities are meant to be grasped and ideally can be used to move things ahead. Good opportunities should be ridden in fun but rarely work out like you expect. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat this opportunity seriously. Hiring the next town manager will be one of the bigger decisions you make as a councilperson and will impact the town for a long time. Use it to move forward. But don’t waste a lot of time looking for the perfect town manager. There isn’t one.
Don’t “What If” this decision to death. You can always find something wrong. “What if the new guy doesn’t get along with the ski area—or even worse, what if he’s a snowboarder?” What if the new gal doesn’t understand the complexity of the airline industry?” “What if the Elk Avenue businesspeople or the local ranchers don’t like how the guy wears his hat?”
I’ve always been a believer in the local hire. This is a small town. After a while, you have to deal with those who love you and those who hate you. You’ll cross paths at the post office or the school play. If you aren’t used to the close proximity, a newbie might just go crazy. It’s not the most normal of places. The idea of outdoor seating at restaurants can be a big deal and pack a room. So can Fourth of July fireworks. Don’t even start on snow banks. Three of our local business owners carry similar monikers—Mikey Pizza, Mikey Shorts and Mikey Cheese. The new guy should get to know each of them and understand why they have those nicknames. The local store in the dead center of town’s main business district sells water pipes and hookahs. You gotta love it all.
You need a thick skin in a high profile job in this town. The town manager is one of those jobs under the microscope. In fact, a better analogy might be it’s like being an ant under a magnifying glass on a summer’s day. You will make some people mad. As friendly as this place appears on the surface, there are some hard knuckle aspects to the valley that any town manager would have to fend off on a regular basis. It gets cold here—in the summer. It’s not an easy place to live unless you like winter. Costumes are part of the place. The new guy with a good resume should be asked how he would handle dealing with town residents (or employees) in Speedos and fairy wings. It’s part of the place. It’s different from Aurora.
Locals already get most of this stuff and have attained a comfort level with chainless races and Townie Takeovers.
It’s been about a decade since a town council, in my opinion, made a big mistake and hired an out-of-towner for the top job. There were several qualified local candidates who had applied. I got along great with the guy they hired, but that decision changed a big dynamic in Crested Butte. And he was gone a few short years later. “He was a good interviewer,” one of those council people tried to explain to me. Wow. Maybe that council got fleeced. And when he left, no qualified locals bothered to apply for the job the next time because they had lost trust in the decision makers. Small towns work a lot on trust.
Some people can come here and make it work. But it takes their spouse and kids and a different mental attitude to make it work as well.
As important as anything for the council making this decision to realize is that every candidate has baggage. No one making the final cut will be perfect. You just see more of the bags from people who already live here. It takes a certain personality and management style to sit in that seat.
A smart person (and we’ll assume you will hire a smart person) can learn the details of airlines or how open space is funded or who needs to be consulted when it comes to fireworks. But small town politics is something that must be dealt with. The cold is something real. Driving three hours to the nearest mall is important to some. Being able to work with a mayor who made a mark arguing with the Forest Service official while wearing a Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling mask matters.
We just want to take this occasion up front to ask that this council doesn’t fall into the “She had a perfect resume” or “He gives a great interview” trap. Think local first if that opportunity arises as part of this new door opening.