The job of any town manager is fraught with land mines. It is not an easy role—especially in a place like Crested Butte.
It’s not all smiles, powder days and cooperation in this little mountain village. Believe it or not, the people living here might have different visions for the future and the best way to get there. There are a lot of politics that come with trap doors and caution tape. It’s just the way it is. It takes diplomacy and knowledge to make your way safely and successfully in such an environment.
Just consider the basics of the job. There are the everyday challenges of being ultimately responsible for keeping the lights on and the streets plowed. There are the challenges of dealing with expected hiccups that come with things like events in a tourist town. Those Fourth of July parades and the tents on Elk Avenue during the Arts Festival just don’t appear. The snowmobiles hauling skiers to a Big Air jump at Third and Elk don’t just happen…oh, never mind.
There are the members of the public who will more often than not call you when they have a complaint as opposed to a compliment. Believe it or not, there are people with their own agendas and the politics that go with them. Crested Butte is in a bunch of relationships—from the ski area to the state to the county and now with a big mining company trying to do the right thing. The town manager has to deal with the staff, the guy whose dog was picked up by the cops and the family that is looking for housing. There’s the budget, the developers and the council. And, believe it or not, the councils here are always, shall we say, “interesting.” Seven people with seven visions and every one of them believes they can lead the town to the best place… It’s part of the quirkiness.
So first, a tip of the hat to anyone who chooses to take on the challenge of being a Crested Butte town manager. Todd Crossett came here three years ago and it is evident he is ready to leave for other challenges and opportunities. We wish him luck. As an FYI—the previous two town managers have found jobs on the opposite coasts of America. They are in good places with good jobs. Not bad.
Which brings us to the place we have been before. And, believe it or not, I will throw out the same advice I have given before. The council will meet Monday to discuss how best to fill the position. There will no doubt be some on the council who advocate for a national search to find the perfect fit for Crested Butte. Those advocates will be wrong—again. For starters, there is no “perfect” fit.
As hard as the job is—and there aren’t many harder jobs in the valley—it is not rocket science. There are local people with the skills and knowledge who could do the job. As most people here know, some of them are friends of mine. But every recent council seems to fall into the trap that the grass is always greener with someone who doesn’t live here. There is a whacked perception that those who come from a “real world” background must be more adept at running a quirky ski town than anyone who lives here. I just don’t understand that thinking.
The quirkiness is what draws people here. If you are drawn here you have a basic understanding of the place. If you are pulled here for a job and good paycheck, chances are you won’t be here long. Crested Butte is too quirky. And, believe it or not, beneath the surface, it’s not always nice.
It shouldn’t be hard for the council to understand that some people can interview really well. Believe it or not, interviewing for a job is a lot different from the actual job of running this weird little town. Coming in for a weekend without any baggage, there will always be some people who can schmooze their way into a high-paying job over the candidates who everyone already knows.
So as the town finds itself in a familiar situation, I will gently nudge the council to look local first. Open up the process to people who live here or who spend a lot of time here because they love it here but want to step into a challenging job. There were two locals in the last interview process who were passed over and I am confident either of them would have done a good job.
The beginning of the replacement process starts Monday. The council has a choice: It can be a little quirky and decide to test out the local market first or it can go down the traditional path used by most other places and spend a lot of money looking for that “perfect” candidate from out of town. Believe it or not, it usually is a good decision to shop local.