Our View: City manager hiring choice merits pause

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The Steamboat Springs City Council's search for the next city manager could end as soon as today, but several issues should give the council pause before it offers the position to Jon Roberts.

Roberts, the city manager in Victorville, Calif., will take part in a public interview at noon today at Centennial Hall. The council is scheduled to discuss contract negotiations in executive session after the public interview. A similar session took place during Tuesday night's council meeting. Some city officials have indicated a job offer appears imminent.

There are plenty of reasons to support the glowing assessment several City Council members and volunteers serving on the city manager search committee have given Roberts. He has an extensive resume in city government, including almost 10 years as city manager of 100,000-resident Victorville, Calif. He knows Colorado well and lives an active lifestyle, traits that lead us to believe he would transition nicely to the Routt County lifestyle.

By most accounts, Roberts performed exceptionally well during interviews and has strong interpersonal skills - a characteristic identified by the city as key for its next top official.

Nonetheless, there are a variety of issues we urge the City Council to fully examine before extending a job offer to Roberts.

Specifically, we'd like to hear Roberts address:

- His willingness to take as much as a 50 percent pay cut to relocate to Steamboat Springs.

- His commitment to living full time in Steamboat Springs. Roberts' wife lives and works in Colorado Springs, and Roberts travels to Colorado almost weekly to be with her. He also has Colorado license plates on his vehicle. We believe the ideal city manager should spend more than the Monday to Friday work week in Steamboat.

- The reasons for a year-plus delay in the completion of Victorville's financial audit.

- His involvement, if any, in a $33 million lawsuit filed against the city of Victorville and any other outstanding litigation. It certainly is not uncommon for municipalities to be involved in numerous lawsuits at any given time, but their potential impact on Roberts' ability to function as a full-time city manager in Steamboat Springs is worthy of detailed discussion.

- Victorville's floundering Foxborough power plant project. According to the Victorville Daily News, the project was budgeted at $22 million in 2004. Four years later, the project's cost to the city was estimated at $95 million, and Foxborough was yet to produce any electricity of its own. Steamboat Springs has seen its share of cost overruns in recent years, and the uncertain economic future places even more importance on sound fiscal practice and responsibility.

We hope the City Council pushes for frank and satisfactory answers to these and any other pertinent questions related to Roberts' current employment and his potential commitment to Steamboat Springs before any offer of employment is extended.

Steamboat Springs needs a qualified and committed city manager not only to manage the day-to-day operations of our resort town, but also to be the big-picture thinker who can lead the city down a path of economic stability and sound growth. Jon Roberts may be the right man for the job, but there's no reason to rush into a decision.

Comments

Richard Tyler 5 years, 8 months ago

I have been a Victorville resident for 26+ years.

I know that Steamboat Springs is looking for the best possible City Manager.

Now, take our city manager (John Roberts), PLEASE!

We can't afford his schemes any longer.

Please!

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 8 months ago

Is this council going to be the ones to finally hit that home run? If I was on council I would keep my mouth shut and fingers crossed. We are out of political capitol on this subject.

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