Steamboat Springs The process of City Council selecting its choice for a new city manager has been an extraordinary one, in my experience of working for, with or as part of local governments for the past 30-some years. The City Council and the Citizens Search Committee have been a pleasure to work with, in a collaborative manner, during the past several months.
My volunteer efforts concluded last Wednesday after an unprecedented public interview process that resulted with City Council moving forward with its decision to hire the candidate, Jon Roberts. I describe this as unprecedented because I have never seen a formal final interview conducted in an open public session, where the candidate responded not just to the City Council and the Citizens Search Committee, but also to questions raised by the general public and to questions that were posed by a newspaper editorial.
One of the key questions posed by a member of the audience focused on the importance of the public decision-making process to Mr. Roberts. In a subsequent response on another issue, Mr. Roberts detailed how impressed he was with the process the city had created for trying to find a new manager. He felt that some of our approach to the interview was so effective, he already had commended it to the director of human resources in the city where he currently works.
I was involved in this effort because during a brief lapse in judgment last August, I submitted an application to the City Council to serve on the Citizens Search Committee. Later in the evening of my interview, City Clerk Julie Jordan called me to ask whether I would serve on the committee in an ex officio capacity. After discussing with her and with Council President Loui Antonucci what this would mean, I agreed. They explained that I would be a member of this volunteer advisory committee and could spend a lot of time and effort but ultimately not have a formal vote.
This ex officio opportunity seemed ideal to me. I would get to attend the meetings and participate if I wished, but I always had an excuse to leave meetings early or miss them entirely if I felt that I was wasting my time.
Unfortunately for this theory, after a few meetings with the committee and then with the City Council, I was hooked. The committee members were dedicated, focused, experienced and bright. City Council was genuinely appreciative of our efforts and recommendations, and they accommodated many of our suggestions. I started looking for ways to try and help the process and to participate substantively in the collaborative efforts that were being undertaken.
We met with the city attorney and with the city clerk and discussed the issues of applicant privacy (up to the point of final candidates), issues of public information and access, and legal requirements for disclosures and for open meetings. Ultimately, we made recommendations to the City Council for the two rounds of interviews. The initial interviews, where there were more candidates involved, was held in executive session. Once the finalists were identified, their final interviews were scheduled to be held in public session, as recommended by our committee.
In summary, I want to express my appreciation to the members of the Citizens Search Committee, to Roger Good and to the City Council for their efforts in an open and collaborative process. Everyone involved - staff, council, volunteers - contributed positively to the development of a process that challenged the applicants and that has hopefully identified the best candidate to serve our city.