Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter | SteamboatToday.com

Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

Council says interim has "righted the ship" during dark days

Interim City Manager Gary Suiter speaks during his interview Friday with the Steamboat Springs City Council. A community panel that interviewed Suiter and three other finalists recommended Suiter for the job.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council has offered the city manager’s job to Interim City Manager Gary Suiter, a man council members say is a steady hand who arrived at City Hall seven months ago and “righted the ship” during some of the city’s darkest days.

Suiter came to Steamboat after the city’s former manager and top two police officials had departed in the wake of an internal investigation that concluded a hostile work environment had existed at the police department for years.

Council members who were supportive of hiring Suiter for the permanent manager job Tuesday praised him for making the decision to hire new Police Chief Cory Christensen.

Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said it was the best decision made by the city administration in the past six months.

“Without that decision, I don’t know what tonight would be like,” Meyer said.

Suiter also was praised for his wide range of experience, his understanding of the financial challenges facing the city and his tendency to be frank.

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If contract negotiations are successful, Suiter will remove the interim qualifier from his title in the coming days and be tasked with helping the council realize a long list of goals that include implementing a major downtown improvement project and restoring community trust in the wake of the police investigation.

Suiter is a management consultant who has spent numerous years managing cities in Colorado.

He previously served as the town manager in Snowmass Village, the city manager in Evans and the county administrator in Alamosa County.

Here in Steamboat, Suiter took the reins from Deb Hinsvark, who was forced out of the manager’s office in the fall after the council expressed dissatisfaction with its partnership with her and her handling of the police investigation.

Councilman Tony Connell called Suiter a seasoned manager with whom he has enjoyed working.

Councilman Scott Ford said the interim city manager already has experience working in a town that “has a variety of different constituencies and a variety of different voices.”

On Friday, the council interviewed Suiter and three other finalists for the job.

A panel of eight community members unanimously recommended Suiter for the position.

Finalist Michael Lamar, the county manager in Mason County, Georgia, also left an impression.

Councilwoman Heather Sloop, the only council member to vote against Suiter’s hiring, said she preferred Lamar as the next city manager.

Several other council members praised Lamar as a humble, down-to-earth and transparent candidate who could be a good fit for this city.

Some council members were so impressed by Lamar, they said they would be open to discussing a proposal from Connell to also hire the Georgian as assistant city manager.

Connell felt Lamar could be mentored by Suiter and, eventually, become the city’s next manager.

Meyer, however, noted that, under the city’s charter, the council can hire only two employees: the city manager and the city attorney.

The council ended Tuesday’s meeting with an executive session to discuss salary and contract negotiations.

Two council members will soon meet with Suiter to negotiate a contract.