The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night voted to offer Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark, left, a new contract that will make her the city's permanent manager.

Photo by Scott Franz

The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night voted to offer Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark, left, a new contract that will make her the city's permanent manager.

Steamboat Springs city manager search ends with promotion of Deb Hinsvark

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— By promoting Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark on Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council ended what likely is to be remembered as one of the shortest and least costly searches to fill the top job at City Hall.

The council voted, 4-2, to offer Hinsvark a new contract that will make her the city's permanent city manager.

Council members who were supportive of Hinsvark's promotion said she brings a strong work ethic and sense of stability to a position that has seen heavy turnover in recent years.

“I'm supremely impressed by Deb's work ethic and how she's working for us and the citizens,” council President Bart Kounovsky said before the council voted to offer Hinsvark a new contract later this month that will remove the interim label from her title. “I'm also impressed by Deb's growth over the last four months as the interim city manager.”

Several council members said the interim title has been holding back Hinsvark and the city.

“The interim title isn't a confidence builder. It doesn't move us forward. It doesn't move this community forward,” council member Walter Magill said. "I want us to get off the stopgap and get going in the right direction."

Hinsvark's promotion was opposed by council members Sonja Macys and Cari Hermacinski. Council member Kevin Kaminski was absent for the vote.

Macys argued the council should conduct a job interview with Hinsvark before offering her the permanent position.

Council member Kenny Reisman countered that Hinsvark's three-year tenure with the city — during which she has served as finance director, deputy city manager and now interim city manager — is “the best job interview someone can have.”

Macys also thought that Hinsvark would be a stronger city manager if she had to go through a competitive application process to get the job.

“As much respect as I have for the people who are saying Deb is doing a great job, that's not enough for me,” Macys said. “I want to know what the great accomplishments are.”

Hermacinski questioned why the City Council was “in a hurry to remove Hinsvark's interim title” and said the council first should approve changes to the city manager's job description and expectations before weighing a new contract for Hinsvark.

Hinsvark's promotion officially will end the search for a permanent city manager that never took off after the council passed on an opportunity to pay a search firm to help find candidates.

The council was leery of starting a search before an election in November in which four of its seats are at stake, and it questioned whether the city would get any strong candidates at this time.

Last month, Magill proposed that the council offer Hinsvark a one-year contract for the job. But that proposal became Tuesday night's promotion after City Attorney Tony Lettunich informed Magill the city's charter does not allow the council to set a term for the city manager's contract. Instead, Lettunich said the council can outline only how often the manager's performance is evaluated.

City managers serve at the pleasure of the city council that has the ability to hire and fire them.

Hinsvark, who has served in the interim role since former City Manager Jon Roberts resigned in October, is expected to sign her new contract at the March 19 council meeting.

Asked by the council how long she thinks she wants to lead the city, Hinsvark replied she was looking forward to tackling the goals of the council and could see herself here for at least the next five years.

After the council voted to negotiatie a new contract, Hinsvark said she wasn't seeking a pay increase to go along with the new title.

In December, the council amended Hinsvark's employment contract to give her an additional $1,000 per month in pay for the added responsibilities of the interim position.

Hinsvark's current salary is $145,407, which is about $8,000 less than what Roberts' salary was at the time of his resignation.

Hinsvark said she looks forward to continuing to lead the city.

“I am committed to this community, and I'll continue to be,” she said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Robert Dippold 1 year, 1 month ago

No job description. No interview to see if the skills, ambitions, expectations of the potential employee match what the employer is looking for. An interview and job description is a 2 way street. It is not just for the employer. Ask the previous city manager and he will tell you that the job description never changed but the informal expectations did.

What was learned from the last "firing"?

Not formalizing expectations is a great way to repeat history and set Deb and the next City Council up for conflict and failure.

The horse is out of the barn, but the City Council needs to get the job description completed, discussed with Deb and have expectations agreed to by both parties in a documented manner.

We all need to learn from history.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 1 month ago

Robert, Hiring is always a risk for all concerned, but that is the price we pay to move forward. From afar I did not feel the last hire was a good fit but this hire has good potential. We can't make hiring a foolproof matter but we seem to be chasing our tails in the effort.Good luck to all.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

How much will she receive in severance pay? Given all the uncertainty surrounding the position of city manager, it will be just another reason to vote against current city council members if they offer more than 2 weeks of severance pay.

And something else is deeply messed up if the title of "interim" was holding back Hinsvark and the city Did "interim" interfere with the city's attempt to sell the public services building? Hinsvark was unwilling to work hard or effectively because of the interim title?

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bill schurman 1 year, 1 month ago

Next around I trust that she'll speak to and for council instead of her op-ed pieces in the PILOT/TODAY.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

Or was the letter a rare opportunity for the public to see the sort of advocacy commonly communicated to City Council members by staff away from the public eye?

And she raised questions about Scott Ford only when he expressed opinions contrary to her own.

And, as finance director, she pushed for a city staff pay raise only for City Manager Jon Roberts to surprise everyone by saying her own numbers said there wasn't the money to pay for it after 18 months.

She scares me because it looks like she is way too much of an advocate of her ideas than someone that presents a fair representation of the relevant facts. Maybe she will become more fair in the future. But she could also easily be gone after the next city council election because of her advocacy for the sale of the public services building. Think of the mess that we would be in if the city council had acted upon what she had asked them to do!

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 1 month ago

Council and staff as well as Ms. Hinsvark are on trial here as we are eagerly waiting for a functional situation. If we sucuumb to agendas any good employee be looking for the exit.

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Effie Russell 1 year, 1 month ago

Congratulations Mom and City of Steamboat. Having 40 years of experience with Ms. Hinsvark's management style myself, I can honestly say she is an excellent choice for City Manager.

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walt jones 1 year, 1 month ago

All I can say is "here we go again". I posted when Jon Roberts resigned and Deb Hinsvark was selected as interim city manager that she and Anne Small are the 2 big pushers of the Iron Horse/Public Safety building fiasco. Now that she is in the position watch how many other things she pushes council hard on that cost the city and will raise the taxes. How on earth did they not even interview candidates?? What a joke.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 1 month ago

Only positive I see is that our tax dollars are not going to be wasted on a headhunter this time around. Well, being the optimist that I am, one positive is better than no positives.

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