Aspen City Manager Sara Ott is turning to the city council for direction in the quest for a new community development director. Applications for the position closed Friday and the city hopes to have a job offer submitted by the end of the year. The city received 32 applications for the position, 10 applicants are from Colorado.
“I am requesting a brief council discussion on desired qualities and competencies in the next community development director. Your input as a stakeholder group will assist in this decision-making process,” wrote Ott in a letter to councilmembers.
At a work session tonight, Ott will present the council with five discussion points to narrow down ideal candidates for the position. Those questions include:
- “What skills and leadership attributes does the community development Director need in order to be successful in this role?”
- “In your opinion, what background, experience, or knowledge does the next community development director need to have?”
- “What do you feel the next community development director, or a finalist, needs to know about the Aspen community and our organization?”
The council has a tentative confirmation date of Dec. 17 for the new hire. There will be a round of in-person interviews that allow the community to meet the candidates prior to that.
“The onsite interview process for finalists will include interaction with the general public, staff, community tour and interviews. Council members are welcome to attend the public interaction session. The specific dates, time and format are not yet announced,” Ott wrote.
The community was asked to weigh in on the ideal candidate through an online public survey made available this fall. That survey asked planners and developers what they thought the most important attributes of a new development director would be. The Novak Consulting Group was hired by the city and is overseeing the initial recruitment and screening of the nationwide search.
“Recognized as one of the most beautiful places on the planet, residents choose to live here because they can connect with those who share similar values,” states the recruitment brochure prepared by Novak. “Aspen residents are passionate, highly educated, engaged in their community, and embrace the mountain culture year-round.”
The brochure boasts the city’s benefits package, including potential housing available for rent or purchase within the city’s holdings, and a salary range of $115,154 to $161,791.
The director position opened shortly after the newly seated city council took office during the summer, when director Jessica Garrow announced her departure for the private sector. Deputy planning director Jennifer Phelan has been serving as director in the interim.
Since that time, the council has overseen the hiring of a city manager by selecting Ott as a permanent replacement to Steve Barwick. The city also hired its first full-time communications director in Tracy Trulove, who formerly worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The description for the community development director gives a nod to the city’s increased efforts to engagement in public outreach.
“The model candidate is a strong communicator who can engage successfully with different audiences and is resilient and calm in the face of controversy. This individual has a background in community outreach and civic engagement and understands the importance of not only providing the public with accurate and timely information, but in being accessible, responsive, and transparent. The next community development director is an effective mediator and has a strong political acumen,” it reads.
Another question Ott will pose to councilmembers tonight is, “What are the top two or three projects or priorities you feel the community development director will need to tackle once hired?” The discussion is related to another agenda item, the council’s top priorities that will guide city staff in their projects over the next 18 months.
Two of the priorities specifically name Phelan or the community development director as the lead on the initiative. The current council configuration has made affordable housing its main focus and a big overhaul of the way housing is built or mitigated will fall to the community development department.
“Review adopted regulations that affect the development of affordable housing including a study of the affordable housing fee-in-lieu rate, the Certificate of Affordable Housing Credit program, employee generation and mitigation rates, and multi-family replacement requirements,” reads the task, which is assigned to Phelan.
Additionally, the council wants to see more support for local and locally serving businesses. The next director is assigned the task of brainstorming ways to improve the local economy, along with the director of parking, Mitch Osur.
“Analyze opportunities to retain and attract essential, small, local and unique businesses to provide a balanced, diverse and vital use mix supporting the community.”
On Sept. 16, the council held a work session in which it focused on a work plan for the community development department as a whole. Phelan presented 18 initiatives to council, seeking assistance in prioritizing the workload. Items included the incoming buildout of a 5G network in Aspen, the city’s outdoor lighting regulations and identifying potential annexation properties. The council directed Phelan to prioritize initiatives related to affordable housing above all else.