Our View: Time for clarity with city manager search
January 29, 2013
Regardless of whether the Steamboat Springs City Council hires an executive search firm to help select its next city manager or whether the council allows Deb Hinsvark to continue in the interim role for the foreseeable future, it owes it to city staff and residents to establish clear expectations and goals for Steamboat's chief executive officer.
It's now been more than three months since former City Manager Jon Roberts resigned in the wake of harsh criticism from some council members about his job performance and almost five months since the same council established a list of goals and expectations for Roberts if he wanted to keep his job into 2013.
In December, after Roberts' resignation, the City Council decided to delay a formal city manager search process until it could create a better metric and evaluation system for the manager position. This Editorial Board supported the delay and questioned the need to hire an expensive executive search firm given the cost and the short tenures of the two most recent hires to result from such searches.
We still feel the same way, but one thing hasn't changed: the council cannot continue to delay its stated goal of clearly defining its expectations and goals of the city's top employee. At a meeting last week, City Council members expressed a desire to tackle that issue at one of their February meetings. We hope they follow through, because time is of the essence if this council wants to make a permanent city manager hire.
November is just 10 short months away, and four of the council's seven seats will be up for election at that time. That means it's possible a majority of the seats could turn over at the conclusion of an election cycle likely to begin in earnest by midsummer. If the council drags its feet any longer, it's likely to be in the best interest of the community and the next City Council if a permanent hire was delayed until after the election.
And even if this council chooses simply to stick with Hinsvark as the interim city manager, she too deserves clarity on what is expected of her and how she will be evaluated. Hinsvark has made no secret of her desire to remove the "interim" label from her title. How can council members say whether she is doing a good job or a poor job if there's still no clarity on what doing a good job means to this group of seven elected officials?
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It's time to see leadership from City Council on this issue, and we hope that starts with crossing off a stale to-do list item during one of its February meetings.