Mike Forney: City manager search

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— I think it's important for the community to hear the other side of the city manager selection story. Frankly, Rob Douglas's column on Friday left the impression that the search was a secretive process controlled by council without community involvement. Not so.

I'm surprised that Mr. Douglas failed to recognize the efforts by council early on to broaden the search and decision process so that the views and concerns of the community would be included. About 20 local citizens responded to the initial council request for participation in a Citizen's Committee this past summer. I was honored to be chosen as the representative residing in Routt County. My fellow team members included long-term businessman and community activist Steve Dawes, Moots President Rob Mitchell, Real Estate COO and CPA Bart Kounovsky, city employee Robbie Shine, attorney Reed Morris and ex-officio member Richard Tremaine (attorney and former City Councilmen). I am not speaking for them individually or for our committee.

Our group met with the full council several times beginning in August to discuss the criteria we thought most essential in a new city manager. These meetings were advertised and open to the public.

More than 100 resumes were received. Council and the Citizen's Committee met in executive session to review the top 20 percent based on recommendations and preliminary background checks from the search firm. Understandably, prospective candidates had asked for confidentiality because many were presently employed. Ergo, no public meeting.

Six semi-finalists and an alternate were chosen for personal interviews. Again, some of the candidates already were employed, and confidentiality was necessary.

Council and the committee met separately with each candidate in interviews that lasted more than two hours each during a two-day period. Our Citizen's Committee then rated the candidates. The only two we fully supported were Jon Roberts and Bob McLaurin.

We took our recommendations to the council, again in executive session to protect the six applicants. Using its own criteria, Council came to the same conclusion. Messrs. Roberts and McLaurin were informed (along with the media) and they were invited to final interviews and meetings.

Although we have only one remaining "finalist," it is my understanding that the selection of Jon Roberts is not a "done deal." Council also agreed that the decision made earlier this month about the other semi-finalists will stand. If Roberts is not chosen, I believe the search process will start again until we find the right person for this critical job.

Public participation in this process has been achieved in part through the selection of and freedom given to the Citizen's Committee. We were disappointed in the public turnout when Council asked for input last fall regarding the skills and attributes we should be seeking in a new city manager.

It would have been far better to have more than one candidate at next week's public meeting. On the other hand no one would suggest that council parade the remaining four candidates before the public, knowing full well they were not a suitable match for the position.

I think we all agree that the next city manager needs to have the proven ability to be an effective and open communicator and is one who is attuned to and ready to implement the policies and mission of this and future councils. He or she needs to be a leader and manager who can represent the community to city government, and vice-versa. In these difficult economic times, we also need someone who can manage the economy and challenges of a mountain resort. Those of us on the Citizen's Committee are hopeful that Jon Roberts is the person to do this job. If he is not, then we must continue our search until we find someone who can.

Mike Forney

Steamboat Springs

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