No national search; “local knowledge” a key attribute
By Mark Reaman
In a spirit of compromise, members of the Crested Butte Town Council will look for a consultant to help them do some initial analysis both internally and externally in their search for a new town manager. While making it clear that they will not be utilizing an expensive head-hunting firm to conduct a national search, the council on Monday asked staff to initiate a Request for Proposals (RFP) from firms that can help them focus on a “hybrid” search for a permanent town manager.
The council wants some assistance in defining what the group expects from a candidate in terms of local knowledge and personal attributes that mesh with an administrator profile. “This key aspect will help drive what the council is looking for, it will help the candidates decide if they are a fit and should apply, and it will help in the evaluation of candidates and final selection of the new town manager,” wrote Crested Butte finance director and human resources director Lois Rozman in a memo to the council.
Rozman also noted that the city of Gunnison is conducting a more wide-open nationwide search for a town manager that is expected to cost about $25,000 and take six months.
The Crested Butte council basically agreed it wants a consulting firm to help articulate the council’s manager profile desires along with defining goals and objectives for the position, then help solicit resumes and analyze the first wave of interest and perhaps assist with the first interview.
The RFP will be advertised this week and the deadline for submissions will be May 6. The council would then select a consultant around May 20.
“I still have a big problem hiring a search firm,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “But I’m in the minority so I won’t belabor the point.”
“I think we have heard loud and clear from the constituents that they want a candidate with strong local knowledge,” said mayor Glenn Michel. “No one is looking for a major national search.”
“I agree with Jim and there is another issue to think about,” said councilperson Erika Vohman.
“Home prices in the valley are insane. I would think many candidates would want to buy a home and not just live in the town-owned home. So keep in mind how hard it is to buy a house here unless we pay an extraordinary amount,” Vohman said.
“I like the idea of using the hybrid process,” said councilmember Roland Mason. “We can give the consultant parameters. A consultant can take the time needed to help get out the requests for the resumes and analyze those initial resumes. They can help us out a lot in the initial steps.”
“The council needs to line out what the term ‘local’ means,” said Michel. “They can help us ferret that out, too.”
“The hard part is understanding what kind of person works,” said interim town manager Bill Crank. “It is hard to put into words.”
Schmidt said he had spent some time trying to put into words what constituted a “local” to him. He distributed his points to the council and said essentially it was sort of like the comment from Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart about obscenity: “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it,” he said.
“That’s good when you see it but how do we all see it?” asked Michel. “We need to have all of us get out ahead of this. No one is supporting a national search for town manager but perhaps experience in a western mountain ski town is the focus.”
“You can probably call anyone living in Western Colorado a local,” added councilperson Laura Mitchell. “There is a value in spending some money for some professional assistance.”
“That’s why we need some help working this out,” said Michel.
“Definitely,” said Crank. “You can have the consultant help you articulate the type of person you are all looking for.”
“I think a consultant can help us narrow down and articulate what want between us,” added councilman Paul Merck. “I feel like we’re spinning a little bit. How do we create a process to make this happen?”
“I agree we can streamline the whole search process if we can be clear about what we’re looking for,” said Michel.
“I think we’ll know it when we see it,” reiterated Schmidt.
“I disagree,” countered Michel. “I think we need to better organize the definition of what this group wants, not just one of us.”
“It’s not the way I wanted to proceed but I can go with Plan B and a consultant to help us,” said Vohman.
The council voted 6-0 to head down the path of a hybrid search using some professional help in the early stages. Councilperson Chris Ladoulis was not at the meeting.
“I will give the council some descriptions of the job profiles I’ve read,” said Crank. “I don’t think I could have qualified under any of them. But I think you all know what you want. What I want is something realistic and down to earth.”
The RFPs for a search consultant will be advertised starting this week.