Our View: Contract extension for Hinsvark makes sense

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Editorial Board, January to May 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Randy Rudasics, community representative
  • John Centner, community representative

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

The majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council was right last week to propose an extended contract for Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark.

Because the council has opted not to begin an all-out search process for Jon Roberts’ replacement, and because four of the council’s seven seats are up for election this fall, it behooves the city to ensure stability at the top of its management team while allowing the newly seated council the freedom to choose how to proceed with filling the manager post come November.

In a 4-2 vote Feb. 12, the City Council agreed to discuss a contract extension for Hinsvark at its March 5 meeting. Council members Cari Hermacinski and Sonja Macys opposed the motion, both of them objecting to the one-year extension being discussed. Hermacinski said giving Hinsvark a one-year deal could tie the hands of the next council; Macys wants the council to be thinking now about a long-term vision for the city.

We actually agree with both points, but we don’t think the council’s decision last week undermines either of them. If a one-year extension for Hinvsark were in place by March, that would leave the next City Council, which wouldn’t be seated until mid-November, between three and four months to evaluate Hinsvark and determine the best course of action for a long-term city manager decision. It’s unlikely a search process initiated by that new council could start and end before March 2014 anyway, rendering moot Hermacinski’s contention that an extension for Hinsvark would preclude the newly elected body from freely proceeding with a city manager decision.

And we share Macys’ thought that the council should embrace long-term visioning and strategic planning for the city. Ultimately, that burden rests on the council’s shoulders, not the city manager’s. The city manager should be the person who executes the will of the council.

There’s also something to be said for stability at the top of the city’s organizational chart. Neither Hinsvark nor the council has the luxury of a deputy city manager at this time, which means the city is in danger of a leadership void should Hinsvark depart for a different opportunity. A one-year contract extension gives Hinsvark and the city some measure of stability. It also allows Hinsvark still more time to prove she can be a long-term fit, something she could use given some of the political missteps involved with the failed sale of the city’s downtown police and fire stations.

Finally, it’s worth noting that whatever one might think of Hinsvark and her position on certain issues, it’s clear she’s a city manager comfortable making decisions and taking on a visible role within the community. That’s a trait that was identified as a key weakness of Roberts, her former boss. We’re not sure if Hinsvark is the long-term answer, but we do think giving her a one-year contract is now in the best interest of the city.

Comments

Dan Hill 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm not sure what practical effect a contract has vs. continuing the current arrangement through until November at which time the incoming council can decide what it wants to do. I suspect if Hinsvark was to be offered a better job elsewhere a one year contract wouldn't hold her. I am assuming of course she is being paid extra to take on the City Manager responsiblities. If not, that would need to be rectified somehow.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

City would be better off financially by having a city manager that worries about basic city managing.and hiring consultants to provide the vision direction thing desired by the newly elected city council.

That way the political views of the city council could change without requiring a new city manager.

Though, having read the staff reports for the sale of the Yampa St public services building which were of extremely poor quality and highly bias for the sale while lacking any fact based analysis,, I think Deb Hinsvark needs to demonstrate more competence in crating unbiased staff reports with sourced fact based research.

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Bob Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

"...sourced fact based research." yeah, right. good luck with that one!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually, largely unbiased city staff reports based upon credible economics has been done in the past.

Not that City Council always cared, but surprisingly often there were warnings of risks.

But Hinsvark as finance director proposed pay raises for city staff which was so biased that Jon Roberts felt the need to independently tell City Council that revenue projections showed funding shortfalls. And she was acting City Manager when city staff wrote the absurdly biased staff reports demanding the sale of the public services building and mentioned no downside risks.

Looks like she has a history of presenting biased staff reports to argue for her plans.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 7 months ago

Scott's first comment, first 2 paragraphs, is the best I've read in months.

I hope City Councilors read those paragraphs. Their constituents deserve a City Manager whose focus is taking care of the municipal basics that constituents should be able to take for granted. A City Manager advocating and pursuing agendas puts the City Manager in political differences with some portion of the citizenry at every turn. Allan Lanning and John Roberts seem good examples of the problems that follow City Manager showing personal agendas.

I was impressed with the difference between Paul Hughes the outspoken City Council candidate and Paul Hughes the soft-spoken city manager. He knew the professional responsibilities of the City job and performed them effectively and quietly. Good, steady years for Steamboat. They should let Paul interview and help choose the next city manager. He understands the job better than anyone currently at the City.

The point person of a Council agenda should be it's President, Bart Kounovsky. He should have been the signor of the Deb Hinsvark letter to the editor.

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