Council debating search process for permanent position
By Mark Reaman
Crested Butte has a new interim town manager but it looks like it could be a while before a permanent hire is made to fill the job. The Crested Butte Town Council appointed former town manager Bill Crank on Monday to be the interim manager while a search is conducted to permanently fill the post.
Crank was town manager from 1983 to 2002. He currently resides outside of Hotchkiss.
“We had a great interview with Bill on Friday,” mayor Glenn Michel said. “We still need to finalize and sign the contract but we have the terms in place.”
“One of the things Glenn asked me in the interview was what had changed the most since I left town and right now I would say the housing and rent situation has been surprising,” said Crank. “The housing situation is tough but we are working on some things right now.”
“You are engaging one of the issues that we are all dealing with right now,” said Michel.
As for the hiring of a permanent town manager, the council appeared more split. On one side, councilman Jim Schmidt wants to do a relatively quick local search and get someone in the job soon. On the other side, councilman Chris Ladoulis and Michel would prefer to open up the search nationally and use a professional search consultant or firm.
“The problem with using a search firm and going national is the expense, and judging by the last three results, it is difficult to pick someone based on a few interviews,” said Schmidt. “I think it would be nice for people living here to be able to think about working their way up to something. Maybe there’s a young 20-something person living here now who wants to someday be the town manager. We can send them that message that is possible. In my view, I would want to advertise locally for two or three weeks and focus locally. I’d suggest Bill and Lois [Rozman] come up with a plan to vet the applications.”
“I feel we have some good local candidates,” said councilperson Erika Vohman. “I am not in favor of hiring a search firm although I understand the arguments in favor of that. If the local candidates don’t work out in the process, we can expand it.”
“How do we agree to define what ‘local’ means?” asked councilperson Chris Ladoulis. “I understand the desire to weight knowledge of local issues. But I think we should hire a professional to help us no matter where we end up. It would help us make a professional decision. There are people and firms who do this all the time and know the pitfalls to look out for and can guide us. They can likely help us articulate what it is we want as a group and defend the choice that is ultimately made.”
“I’ve gone back and forth,” admitted councilman Roland Mason. “I don’t want to hand over the search to a national firm. I think we can find some sort of hybrid process. Bill and Lois don’t have time to deal with this. The town is ramping up. Getting a consultant to manage and guide the search with us could work. We need to determine what it is we want in a town manager. We need to figure out a salary. I want a public process to legitimize the search and I’m confident there are some local candidates who will rise to the top. I think it is beneficial to spend some money on a consultant.”
“I think the points from Chris are valid but agree with Roland. Hiring a consultant to weed through the applications seems fine,” said councilperson Laura Mitchell. “Let’s spend some money so we don’t do this again in three years.”
“I’m an advocate to open it up,” said Michel. “It will bring more competition. A consultant can help define what we all want and it would legitimize the process.”
Councilperson Paul Merck also thought it okay to spend some money for some consulting help with the search.
Crank said, “You have to be clear what it is exactly you want an outside group to do. Lois and I can do some digging and gather some information.”
“Perhaps the council needs a retreat to discuss that and then put out an RFP [Request for Proposals],” suggested Michel.
“I’m really disappointed in this direction,” said Schmidt. “It will lengthen the process and be a waste of money.”
“What’s the hurry?” asked Michel.
“We already have a job description for the position,” responded Schmidt. “What will change? We have good local candidates interested in the job. The thought of spending $30,000 or $40,000 when there are so many other things we could do with that money almost repulses me, but it is very disappointing.”
“The hiring of a town manager is the most important thing a town council will do,” said Michel. “This person will lead the town. I want to be prudent and find the ideal candidate for the town manager. Let’s do a good, thorough search. For me, $30,000 or $40,000 out of a $13 million town budget is a good investment.”
Mason said his hybrid idea would be to bring in a consultant with hiring knowledge. “With the town on an economic upswing, we might want to adjust the duties of town manager and the job description,” he said. “I also want input from the public for what they want in a town manager. I know we have great local talent.”
Long-time resident Glo Cunningham said she didn’t want the town to spend $40,000 in taxpayer dollars for a major search. “The idea of a consultant to provide some guidance is fine but I would emphasize the idea of going local, whatever that means. We want someone who believes in the town. I too feel comfortable with a local who can do the job.”
“For about a third of a year’s compensation, you get someone who takes care of the whole process and that’s why we are looking at the $40,000 figure,” said Ladoulis. “If you cut back on some things, the price goes down.”
“Spending $40,000 seems outrageous,” said Mitchell. “I think budgeting $10,000 or $20,000 won’t cause public outrage and seems reasonable to help us find the right person.”
“Do we need a consultant to help us pick a consultant?” quipped Merck.
“Lois and I will look into it and see what is out there,” said Crank. “It is an important decision but other communities have done it.”
“It appears we want a hybrid search,” concluded Michel. “It won’t just be a local search conducted by us but it won’t be a national consulting search.”
“It sounds clear the council wants to use the middle of road approach,” added Rozman. “We will look at Gunnison’s RFP and we will come up with something for you by the next meeting.”
Crank will officially begin his new duties Monday, April 11. The council will next meet April 18.