Our View: 2 candidates for 2 jobs | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: 2 candidates for 2 jobs

While the loss of the city's top two planning leaders leaves a significant hole, particularly in terms of leadership and experience, it's not one that should be filled before spring.

Tom Leeson, the city's director of planning and community development, will leave that position in April to pursue a master's degree in real estate development at the University of Maryland. Leeson has been with the planning department for nine years, including the past four as director.

Leeson's announced departure comes shortly after that of John Eastman, the planning department's second in command, who left in November to pursue a master's degree in Austin, Texas. Eastman was a key cog in the city's negotiations with the developers of Steamboat 700, and he was heavily involved in the development of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan that helped guide the Steamboat 700 annexation application.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts has said the city doesn't plan to fill Eastman's position, particularly because of the planning department's decreased workload during the recession. The city will, however, hire a planning director to take over for Leeson.

We agree it's a significant position that needs to be filled, but we also think city officials should take their time before making a hire.

In particular, the city should hold off on filling the position until the conclusion of the public vote on Steamboat 700. The mail-in election will conclude March 9, at which point the city will have a significantly clearer view of which direction our community is headed.

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If the annexation of Steamboat 700 is upheld, the city may want a planning director with extensive experience in the execution of large-scale development projects.

On the other hand, a rejection of Steamboat 700 likely will necessitate a serious re-evaluation of what residents envision for the future of Steamboat Springs. Under that scenario, we'll be best served by a planning director with relevant experience in leading a community through an extensive visioning process.

Ideally, the city will identify a future planning director who possesses both skill sets, but the bottom line is that Steamboat Springs will be dealing with one of two very different sets of circumstances come mid-March. On Tuesday, Roberts said the city is taking its time with the hire and probably won't make any decisions before spring. That's a good thing. The decreased planning department workload can be managed while down-staffed, but a premature hire could affect the community for years to come.