The city of Steamboat Springs should be applauded for the open process it is using to hire a new city manager.
Government entities such as cities, counties and school districts have taken to conducting more and more secretive searches for their chief executives. That trend has prompted many states to enact laws dictating what information must be released when regarding executive searches conducted by cities, school districts and other public bodies.
In Colorado, finalists for such jobs must be named at least two weeks before a vote is taken on hiring. State law also requires that after a pool of candidates has been whittled to three, those candidates are finalists and must be named. In other words, a city can't shrink its pool to three unnamed "semi-finalists" and later announce just one finalist for the job.
Certainly, Steamboat Springs was not obligated to name the seven candidates it chose to interview for the city manager job out of the 70 who applied. Yet, last week, the city announced all seven as finalists. Such openness builds public trust in the hiring process and allows residents to research candidates and provide feedback about them to council members.
Two local residents are finalists -- Elizabeth Black, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, and George Krawzoff, the city's director of transportation services. Other finalists are Lee Evett, the former city manager for Los Alamitos, Calif.; Alan Lanning, the city manager in Brookings, S.D.; Steve Golnar, most recently city manager in Livingston, Mont.; Rondall Phillips, the executive director of transportation services in Fort Collins; and Thomas Vosburg, Fort Collins' assistant city manager.
All of the candidates will be here Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, they will tour the community and meet with a search committee made up of local residents. The City Council will interview candidates Friday and is expected to narrow its list further, perhaps down to its top candidate for the job.
The new city manager is expected to be in place by early June.
The City Council stumbled in handling former City Manager Paul Hughes' departure. In the fall, Hughes announced plans to retire but said he would stay until his replacement was named. Instead, the City Council voted 5-2 in December to fire him, effective Dec. 31. The dismissal came without warning and seemed unnecessary. It raised questions about what kind of city manager the City Council would hire as his replacement and how the council would go about finding that person.
The council largely has answered those questions by being forthright and open in the search process.
It's important to remember that this is a relatively new council -- the new voting majority has been in power for less than six months. This easily is the biggest decision that majority will make -- a new city manager could shape city policy for years to come.
Steamboat residents now know the options for replacing Hughes, and they have an opportunity to provide input, if not about the candidates, then about the qualities they would like to see in a new city manager.
The council has allowed the light to shine in on its city manager search. That's a good thing for the council, for the city's residents and, ultimately, for the new manager.