photo by Lydia Stern

Help wanted

There appears no hurry to hire a permanent town manager in Crested Butte. Council wants some hand-holding in its search for the perfect fit. Now, as I keep saying (and will keep saying): No one is a perfect fit. Any local candidate will have revealed their warts. Newbies can likely interview well and their warts might not show up for a few months—but I guarantee they will show up.

That’s not to say there isn’t a candidate who has never been here who might be a good and successful town manager in Crested Butte. But if the council wants someone to be successful in the position for more than a few years, it seems obvious to me it would be wise to hire someone who knows the place and understands the high-profile job. The council wants to come up with a consensus on a “position profile” to help with its search and that is a good idea.

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

So in an effort to help, here are a couple of ways to craft the help wanted ad that outlines such a profile.

There is the standard ad looking for someone with a standard professional candidate profile:

Help wanted: Town of Crested Butte, Colo. looking for a new town manager. Manager works for seven-member Town Council. Manager must have successful vision of what a growing resort town in the Rocky Mountains can be. Successful candidate will have experience leading a Town Council into the “big picture” future while making sure day-to-day town operations flow seamlessly. Council wants active, community-minded leader to guide town to the next level. Applicants should have the ability to be a visionary and see a positive collaborative future for this growing premier mountain resort community dealing with short-term rental, transportation and income disparity issues. Familiarity with personnel management, budgeting, and various municipal departments a plus. Master’s degree in public administration preferred. Blah, blah, blah. Come live and work in paradise…

Then there is the more localized version that might be more honest and fair to potential candidates:

Help wanted: The often-times quirky (sometimes crazy) town of Crested Butte, Colo. is looking for a new town manager. Manager will work for seven-member Town Council. (Some) councilmembers strongly prefer candidate with local Crested Butte ties and experience. Others will also give consideration to candidate who has worked in a western USA mountain resort community so they understand the convoluted politics, interesting weather and small-town challenges. A few want fresh blood with a new, more “professional” perspective on how to make town better. You will work for them all.

Duties include making sure town runs efficiently on a daily basis. Be prepared for meetings—lots and lots of meetings. Successful candidate should have ability to corral seven independent visions that change after elections every two years. Capability to manage a very busy, smart and talented staff with growing workload (and little apparent desire to hire more staff) and different opinions is helpful. So is skill at working successfully with neighboring government and private partners including the county (more conservative), nearby municipalities (way more conservative), the private CBMR ski resort (waaaay more conservative) and various local non-profit organizations (all over the board).

Ideal candidate would want to settle in such a community with or without a high-paying job. Cultivating relationships and communication with old hippies, older ranchers, old timers, ski bums and “creatives” of all ages plus young, wealthy families moving to the community for the good school is a big part of the job. All are pretty smart. Not all are always nice. But all will help each other when needed.

Experience with special events also helpful since winter and summer events impact town regularly. Many events involve closing off the town’s main business street to traffic—seriously—so ability to deal with variety of opinions from local business community is a must.

If you make it to an interview you will be asked to pronounce Kebler Pass, Kochevar’s and HCCA. You might be asked to differentiate between Mikey Shorts and Mikey Pizza. You will be asked about the state of the mine, the state of the ski resort, the state of regional air service, the state of the backcountry and the state of mind of BOZAR. You will be asked if open space is more important than economic growth. You might want to do some research into Eleven, RMBL, VRBO and Whatever.

On the walking tour of town, you will be asked to point to Red Lady, the Bench and the Upper Lower Loop. You should be able to give general directions to the P.O., the Four-way, and the two-story outhouse. You will be asked if you are comfortable with people wearing costumes and if you ever wear a costume (in public). You might be asked who the people are with one name. Examples include but are not limited to Tuck, Glo, Lipstick, Deli and Huck.

Be prepared to answer whether or not your spouse will joyfully tolerate snowstorms in April, May, June, August and September, minus 40 degrees in January and possible t-shirt weather in February. Is your spouse good with no place to purchase standard underwear or socks within 30 miles? Is it important to you to like the outdoors? Are you and the kids comfortable in a weed district and with 4:20 townie takeovers?

Applicants should have thick enough skin to be able to take heavy criticism and defend unpopular decisions but still stay cordial. The successful candidate will also need the ability and confidence to say “no” often and take the grief that comes with it—but also be able to say “yes” sometimes and take the grief that comes with it. Please understand that the job is 24/7 in a small-town fishbowl—but also remember, you live in paradise….

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One of the most interesting little asides at last Monday’s council meeting was a quick insight from interim town manager Bill Crank. He noted that while reading town manager position profiles as part of his research for this search that he probably wouldn’t qualify under many, if any, of them.

Crested Butte is still a “different” place. It is sort of understood we all want to stay a bit different from the rest of America. Before getting in too deep with a consultant, the Town Council should not be afraid to make things clear and “profile” the position a little differently from most other places.

—Mark Reaman

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