Steamboat Springs City Manager: Community engagement top priority through 2017 | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs City Manager: Community engagement top priority through 2017






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— Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter took the occasion of City Council's 2017 budget retreat Oct. 4 to discuss a wide range of pressing issues, from getting a better grip on overtime pay, to community complaints about the city planning process and his perception that the city needs to hire a manager to oversee Haymaker Golf Course.

However, Suiter devoted the bulk of his time to emphasizing the need he sees for the city to employ a public relations manager.

City Manager Gary Suiter talks about concerns at city hall

• Suiter told City Council Oct. 4 he has heard concerns expressed by "multiple high-level people in the community" over "communication gaps" and "bottlenecks" at the city planning department. He said he is particularly concerned by the perception that there are people on the city staff who are "anti-development."

"These are things that are going to require resources to solve," Suiter said.

• Employee overtime is another concern of Suiter's. He said he has seen instances in other towns where overtime becomes embedded in the culture to the point that employees come to regard it as part of their base salary.

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"When I see overtime getting too big," I ask, ‘What can we convert (overtime dollars) to, in terms of full-time equivalents to fill the gaps,’" he said.

• Suiter said the community is asking too much of its "fantastic" seven-member golf course committee that oversees management of Haymaker Golf Course. He advocated for writing a job description and hiring a professional golf course manager.

"The most important process we need to face in the next 12 to 15 months is community engagement," as the city faces major policy major policy issues, he said.

The city has already received 50 applications for the new post. Suiter said the successful applicant will need to have a wide range of skill sets.

"It's all media — it's radio, it's magazines on the Front Range, it includes our web presence," Suiter said. "We need somebody who can build and maintain websites. It's social media."

The public relations mamanger would also have a role with emergency preparedness as public information officer, Suiter said.

That led City Councilwoman Kathy Meyer to venture out loud, "It's hard to see one person doing all that. Maybe it's two part-time employees. That job description is kind of overwhelming as far as what you need."

Councilman Tony Connell expressed concern that if the city manager hired a communications manager instead of an assistant manager, City Council would not have succession plan for its next city manager.

Suiter agreed wholeheartedly with the need for a succession plan but suggested City Council could wait another year or two before putting one in place.

"I believe when I step aside it makes sense to have a person groomed, mentored and trained to step into the position. You need stability to do that," he said.

Suiter said that if council directed him to hire an assistant city manager, his first inclination would be to bring on a deputy with experience in performance management and also assign them to some special projects, as well.

Ultimately, council informally approved Suiter moving ahead with hiring a public relations manager.

"This is why we hired Gary, and I support this," Connell said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

City Manager Gary Suiter talks about concerns at city hall

• Suiter told City Council Oct. 4 he has heard concerns expressed by “multiple high-level people in the community” over “communication gaps” and “bottlenecks” at the city planning department. He said he is particularly concerned by the perception that there are people on the city staff who are “anti-development.”

“These are things that are going to require resources to solve,” Suiter said.

• Employee overtime is another concern of Suiter’s. He said he has seen instances in other towns where overtime becomes embedded in the culture to the point that employees come to regard it as part of their base salary.

“When I see overtime getting too big,” I ask, ‘What can we convert (overtime dollars) to, in terms of full-time equivalents to fill the gaps,’” he said.

• Suiter said the community is asking too much of its “fantastic” seven-member golf course committee that oversees management of Haymaker Golf Course. He advocated for writing a job description and hiring a professional golf course manager.