Our View: City needs finance leader

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, 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.

With the city's 2010 budget process quickly approaching, it's an appropriate time for Steamboat Springs to fill its vacant finance director position.

City Manager Jon Roberts confirmed Friday that the city has narrowed its candidate field to three finalists. Interviews have been conducted, reference checks are under way, and a hiring could be announced as soon as next week.

We're relieved to know the city's Finance Department won't be without a director as the 2010 budget process begins in earnest. To be sure, Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau, who has served as interim finance director since Lisa Rolan's departure in December, once again has done a commendable job. Litzau also served as interim finance director in the period between former finance director Don Taylor's firing in July 2007 and Rolan's hiring in March 2008.

But while now might be the right time for city government to be understaffed in certain areas, the Finance Department isn't one of them. An innovative, creative leader with municipal experience can help lead the city through this difficult economic time, ideally minimizing the impact of decreasing sales tax revenues and the resulting effect on city services.

"I really would like to find a way for Steamboat Springs to maintain the high level of amenities it provides," Roberts said Tuesday while discussing the finance director hiring process.

Rolan proposed a budget prioritization process before her departure that held promise but was never fully executed. Perhaps the next finance director can pick up the pieces - or bring forward a better process for setting a realistic and appropriate budget.

In addition to having a strong financial mind, we hope Rolan's successor - whether hired internally or from elsewhere - has the ability to interface with the public and the City Council, an area in which Rolan struggled. We also hope the new hire sticks around; the turnover in city management positions the past couple of years is troubling, not to mention counter-productive.

Finally, it's notable that the city has conducted the finance director search without help from an outside firm. The city has contracted with executive search firm Peckham & McKenney for several of its most recent management-level hirings. However, some in the city expressed frustration with the performance of the search firm, and Roberts moved forward accordingly with an in-house process. He says doing so allows him to "be as close to the process as possible." It also saves the city money.

If the result is a strong, capable and committed finance director, then it's a process we all should embrace.

Comments

JLM 4 years, 9 months ago

I applaud the City Manager's decision to manage the hiring process and save money. That is an exercise of fiscal prudence.

There is no excuse for not compiling sales tax numbers in a rapid manner. This is, at the end of the day, a very simple data entry challenge and could be done by temps.

The City of Pueblo is to be commended for having its numbers out in 6 calendar days. Well done!

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