Our View: Contract extension for Hinsvark makes sense
February 19, 2013
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.