Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council unanimously picked the chief operating officer of Colorado Group Realty to replace a member who routinely opposed decisions he felt were too aggressively pro-growth.
Bart Kounovsky will be sworn in Sept. 7 to fill the seat vacated last month by Jim Engelken, who recently moved to the Front Range with his family. Engelken was a longtime advocate of open space preservation and took a cautious approach to growth.
Several City Council members said Tuesday’s 6-0 vote for Kounovsky largely was based on the city’s extremely tight budget during the down economy and cited Kounovsky’s financial experience — he’s a former senior financial analyst for The Industrial Company — along with his wide-ranging community involvement and ability to bring a fresh voice to city governance.
Kounovsky serves on the board of directors for Steamboat Golf Club, the Steamboat Springs triathlon and the Family Development Center, and is president of Concordia Lutheran Church. He’s a business partner in the Space Station gas station and convenience store downtown.
Kounovsky said during his interview with council members Tuesday night in Centennial Hall that he did not think his leadership position with Colorado Group would create conflicts of interest, at least not frequently.
“I do not sell real estate; I work for a real estate company,” Kounovsky said. “I guess I wouldn’t see that as a direct conflict.”
He added that he would step down from City Council deliberation and action when someone in his office “brings something to the table.”
All six council members named Kounovsky as one of their top two choices after the interviews with four finalists. Meg Bentley, Scott Myller and Cari Hermacinski, the council president, named Cedar Beauregard as their other choice. Walter Magill, Kenny Reisman and Jon Quinn named Kathi Meyer. Rich Levy, the other finalist, received no votes after the interviews. Beauregard, Meyer and Levy are members of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission.
Council members deliberated about the choice and were quick to praise other finalists.
“Of the four candidates tonight, I think I was most impressed with Kathi — her record, her qualifications, her background of service to the community,” Quinn said immediately after the interviews. “She understood every question and had a reasonable answer on each one.
“I think Kathi was the best interview,” he added. “She proves over and over again how committed she is to our community.”
Later Tuesday evening, though, Quinn said Kounovsky’s financial acumen ultimately led to his support. Although Meyer also has an extensive financial background, Hermacinski cited Kounovsky’s extensive work with local businesses, such as TIC.
As the appointment process unfolded during the past several weeks, some City Council members discussed publicly whether selecting a candidate who was ideologically similar to Engelken could factor into the decision, as a way to respect the intent of the nearly 1,800 voters who put Engelken back onto City Council in the fall.
Magill said, in the end, the city’s financial needs overrode that factor.
“I guess we looked past the balance of council and looked more toward the qualities needed for the future,” Magill said.
“I never believed that it was our duty to find a carbon copy of Jim,” Hermacinski said.
Reisman is a broker with Colorado Group and said Kounovsky’s wife served as treasurer of his City Council campaign in the fall. But Reisman said he didn’t feel that those situations created a conflict of interest in his vote for the appointment.
“My take on it was that as a City Council member, I was charged with the responsibility of picking the best candidate,” Reisman said. “Bart’s strengths just stood out for me. … Knowing Bart like I do gave me full confidence that he would be a great person for the job.”
Kounovsky, who will serve until the November 2011 election, told City Council that he’ll make it a goal to be available to constituents.
“This position is about a lot more than just finance,” he said. “It’s about being involved in the community.”