“Communication flows through everything”
[ By Kendra Walker ]
After several years of leadership turnover, the Mt. Crested Butte town council is working on refining its process for hiring, retaining and reviewing the performance of a town manager.
Over the past couple years, the town has had several town managers since Joe Fitzpatrick retired in September 2020 after 16 years in the position. In the interim, the town’s community development director Carlos Velado served, and then in March 2021 the town council hired Isa Reeb for the official position.
However, “it became apparent that she was not a good fit for the Town,” according to councilmember and former mayor Janet Farmer, so the council terminated Reeb’s employment contract in March of this year. The council then hired Greg Sund in April to serve as town manager.
“The Town’s charter doesn’t have the term “interim” so Greg has been hired as town manager and will serve in that role until the Town hires another manager,” town attorney Kathy Fogo explained to the News. “This could be longer or shorter than six months, but Greg’s hiring also takes care of the ‘appoint a manager within six months requirement in the [town] charter.’”
“Greg has not set an end date for his time as Mt. CB town manager,” mayor Nicholas Kempin told the News. “We are fortunate to have him and the stability he has provided has allowed us to take more time and be more deliberative about how we will proceed regarding the town manager position.”
The council is now working on how to recruit, retain and evaluate future town managers moving forward.
“Council is reevaluating desired competencies and priorities for a Mt. CB town manager,” said Kempin. “That work will allow us to: 1. Evaluate candidates for town manager, 2. Clearly communicate expectations to/for our town manager, and 3. Evaluate the performance of our town manager. Once we complete that process (it is not done yet) we will determine how to proceed.”
In a recent work session, the council discussed the priorities and “core competencies” they would like in a town manager with consultant June Ramos of J Ramos Associates. Sund and Velado also participated in the discussion to offer feedback.
Some of the council’s shared top competencies included: Organizational management/internal administration/leadership/strategic leadership; Council/manager relations/alignment/supporting council with their policy making role; Fiscal and business administration/financial management; Relationship with public/residents/citizen support/community relations/public engagement; and Intergovernmental relations/stakeholder relations/external relations.
“Are we trying to strive for an ideal from an expected position, or trying to be reactionary to a previous problem?” said council member Alec Lindeman. “Ideally I would go with the first rather than the latter.”
Another competency that came up frequently in the conversation was effective communication. The council agreed the art of communication is critical and should be integrated into all the competencies of a town manager. For example, you can’t just have good communication with your council, but then bad communication with the public, said councilmember Roman Kolodziej.
“With communication, you’re making sure you’re on that same page, that same alignment as the council,” offered Velado. “You want a manager who’s not afraid to make decisions, but you also have to understand you’re not making those decisions in a bubble either.”
Sund agreed, “Leadership and decision-making today is more collaborative. You have to consider other points of view before making a decision.”
“Interpersonal relationships with staff is also more important to me than long range planning and strategy, because this person needs to be able to get along with those people,” said Lindeman. “That office needs to function as well as possible.”
Farmer also noted that, even though it’s not a competency, prospective town managers need to understand how remote Mt. Crested Butte is compared to other places. Kempin agreed, “Living here at the end of the road is difficult in a lot of ways.”
“That can be an interview question, ‘What’s your level of flexibility and adaptability when you have limited resources or access to resources?’” noted Ramos.
The council also touched on refining the town manager’s annual review process, and thought it might be beneficial to include staff and the public as avenues for feedback on how the town manager and town is doing as a whole.
It’s an opportunity once a year to find out if there’s some tweaking to do,” said Kolodziej. “Frankly, I think everyone should have a voice.”
Once the council finalizes the process of reevaluating desired competencies and priorities, they will determine how to proceed.
“This would be part of your recruitment brochure, a section of ideal characteristics of the ideal city manager,” said Ramos.
“A lot of these become essential duties,” said Sund.