City manager finalist withdraws candidacy

Bob McLaurin of Jackson, Wyo., cites personal reasons; Roberts remains

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Jon Roberts

— The search for Steamboat Springs' next city manager has narrowed to one.

Bob McLaurin, town manager of Jackson, Wyo., and one of two finalists for the position, withdrew his candidacy and no longer is seeking the job, interim City Manager Wendy DuBord confirmed Tuesday. The withdrawal leaves Jon Roberts, city manager of Victorville, Calif., as the sole finalist for the position.

DuBord said she spoke with Roberts on Tuesday, but the city has not offered him the job and intends to continue with a public interview.

"The city is planning to go forward with the interview process as we've scheduled it, with a few scheduling changes, obviously," DuBord said. "If that all goes well, I suspect the (City) Council is prepared to offer the job to Jon, but not without the public interview process."

Roberts is scheduled for a public interview at noon Jan. 7 in Centennial Hall on 10th Street. He said Tuesday that McLaurin's decision "really doesn't change anything" in his mind.

"For me, the interview process has always been to find out if I'm a good fit for Steamboat Springs," Roberts said. "I would not have applied for the job if I did not intend to see the interview process all the way through. I'm please to be participating in the final interviews next week."

McLaurin said in a statement to city officials that the decision to withdraw was one of the hardest he has ever made.

"Steamboat Springs is a great town and the city is an outstanding organization," he said. "My reasons for withdrawing were both personal and professional. When we moved from Vail to Jackson, I promised my youngest son that he could finish high school here. Leaving now would require me to commute until he graduated next year. I did not want to miss his last year of high school and did not want to be separated from my wife for this length of time. The second reason was the mayor and council here in Jackson expressed a strong desire that I continue my employment here. I felt, given their confidence in me, that it would be an act of disloyalty to leave at this time."

If the city hires Roberts, he likely would take a steep pay cut. He earns about $295,000 in Victorville, while Steamboat Springs is offering $140,000 to $180,000. But Roberts said his position as the sole finalist would not be a leveraging factor in compensation discussions.

"Absolutely not. The discussions about salary occur after they've already made their selection - this has no impact on that at all," he said. "It's public information as to what the salary package is for the city manager. : I'm interested in the job, and I'm perfectly satisfied with the package that they offer."

DuBord said McLaurin notified Phil McKenney, of executive search firm Peckham & McKenney, about his decision late last week. But with some city staff out of the office for the holidays, DuBord said she did not learn about the withdrawal until late Monday.

She said although she has only talked with Roberts briefly, she has a positive impression.

"My initial reaction is very pleasant, very professional," DuBord said. "He took the announcement with surprise, as we did."

Brandon Gee contributed to this report.

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years, 11 months ago

Jon, Please bring to the interview Victorville's Community Plan. I would love to see that part of your CV.

Unfortunately, the Victorville I frequently traversed 20 years ago struck me as the definition of growth with no plan. It will be good to learn how you were helping Victorville plan a smarter future. Thanks.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 11 months ago

Steamboat will be experiencing a slowdown in all areas due to the economy. I think that the time is right to work with existing and local talent. Hiring outside talent has been tried, and has not worked well. What will we lose by trying a new approach? Our reputation is not likely to attract top candidates, and may well explain the newest develoment.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 11 months ago

Fred, You are probably right. But who?

We never were given good reasons why the past two managers were fired. They "resigned". In my opinion both firings represent that council's need for a "one of us" manager. The political pendulum is supposed to swing across the elected seats. When they in turn swing it at department leaders at the municipal level, the community is left with dysfunctional government.

Sadly, the only reason stated for this past firing stemmed from Alan Lanning enforcing 2 codes (against the wrong people). To underscore my point, only a strongly worded September editorial by the Pilot reversed this council from gutting one of the offending codes, the Use Tax, months after firing Alan. We came within one vote of a $4.5 million rebate (to developers) at the same moment we were making cuts to city services in a budget crisis.

Lisa Rolan, the finance director, put her weight into preventing that Use Tax rebate. It was no big surprise to then watch Lisa follow Alan into resignation exodus with no explanation.

Yes Fred, our reputation preceeds us. Expect our next city manager to care less about following our codes and plans.

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aichempty 5 years, 11 months ago

I have frequently found in my career that people who want solutions to big problems are unrealistic about how, and what, can be done. Laying off employees is always a tough call, but sometimes you either do so or go bankrupt. Not being willing to face either prospect means that your creditors ultimately make the decision, and everybody loses their job.

Steamboat always seems to want things that don't exist anywhere else. There's a reason why. If it hasn't worked anywhere else, why do we think we're going to invent it here?

I can't imagine why anybody capable enough to be a good city manager would take a job here. Anyone who studies the situation and understands how things work around here will know they are doomed to failure and replacement in a year or two. There are too many conflicting goals and points of view, and none of them support the feasible solutions to our local problems. Even if we have the money, human nature won't deliver (like with the affordable housing situation where people who can afford the affordable units don't want to be limited in their appreciation ... quite a Catch-22).

So, everybody around here debating and fighting about it and disagreeing on everything all the time is the problem. Bringing in a new clown to drive the little car won't solve the problems.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 11 months ago

Great comments: In my opinion anyone willing to take the job unconditionally is not likely to make a good manager. A wise prospect would either walk away, or accept the job, only after bargaining to have some chance of success. In essence we need the messiah that we have longed for. Does this person exist? It is a long shot at best, I feel that looking internally will provide the best common sense approach. It can be done on a trial and error basis to start grooming leadership and letting it be known that the way to the top is achievable. This constant turnover does not work, and city employees essentially are being told that they need not look up the ladder. This approach would require much less money, in pay packages, and severance pay, and enable us to pay for performance. More bang for the buck.

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aichempty 5 years, 11 months ago

Fred,

The difference that you and I understand is that failing to run your business efficiently and taking on projects where you can't make money spell failure. The elected city officials who hire and fire the city manager don't lose a cent if they fail to manage wisely. All the money lost to inefficiency and waste comes from tax payers.

A well-run city would not do the crap that goes on in Steamboat Springs. Throwing money at emotional concerns while ignoring basic infrastructure and safety issues that nobody notices until something goes wrong is not a way to make things even acceptable, much less better.

I think we have to wait until the people in control die off of natural causes, and hope the ones who come later will have more sense. Feeding a constant demand for city services and caving in to socialistic demands (like "historic preservation" for crappy little houses thrown up at minimum cost before Steamboat was a ski town) from every special interest group is not the way to succeed.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 11 months ago

Fred, Its a bummer to have this little confidence in the next manager.

I've worked with some city staff. As a planning commish and a tax policy volunteer I found they typically understood the issues better than most elected or volunteer folks, including me. Its that local experience you mention, plus professional training in many cases.

Hiring from within makes a ton of sense. i can think of 4 staffers I would take over someone from out of town. But I don't think this council "agrees" with any of those 4. And I suppose a smart staffer would avoid that trap door position anyway.

Aich, Some examples of "emotional spending" and your other complaints would go a long way in clarifying what you are talking about? And govt. is not a for-profit business, so its useless to approach it's issues by looking for the red ink. Its programs, like plowing the streets, run according to snowpack, not a bottom line.

Most important, and I hope you agree, govt should have the long, long term view at all times. Yes, you meet this year's budget, but you also always act according to a viable 20 year plan. For-profits don't hold the long term nearly as important as the short term (unfortunately).

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 11 months ago

Steve: I think that my lack of confidence comes from observing three decades plus of a system that is very difficult to see a pattern of success. Trying to "make it work" after this much time seems futile. Steamboat is a town of agendas and a common sense goal is not always a priority. This condition may make it impossible for any outsider to succeed, maybe my local participation idea could be the catalyst for success. The hiring process is an old ritual with the same optimistic predictions, I have watched this for decades and I want to scream "enough"!

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 11 months ago

Doesn't a mayor getting re-elected put us in the same "weather vane" quandry?

Fred, You wouldn't know it from my griping, but I'd say the councils have done well. Present council included. The quality of our town has held up, in my opinion, with growth being the real change. I confess to two earlier decades of playful ignorance, so your view may be right, but I've been watching this past ten years, particularly to how we handle growing, and stay a cool town to live in.

Seems as I look back we had better continuity. The recent and current council look like two extremes, and the manager firings are just symptoms of the new extremes. Planning commission saw substantial philosophical changes from these two councils as well.

There are too many cliffs out there to meander around this much.

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