Aspen City Council has decided to bring in four finalists for the city manager’s job for a meet-and-greet event and final interviews next week.
The public can meet the candidates on Thursday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Aspen Police Department’s community meeting room as well as view public presentations they will give to council throughout the day.
Sixty-four people applied for the position, and council members had a chance to look at every one of the applications earlier this week in an executive session led by recruiter Drew Gorgey.
Interim Aspen City Manager Sara Ott is one of the four finalists. She had been serving as an assistant city manager since 2017 before stepping into the interim manager’s position during the spring after the departures of Assistant City Manager Barry Crook and City Manager Steve Barwick. She touched on her local experience in her application for the permanent position.
“I work daily with the opportunities and challenges that come from being an amazing international resort destination while balancing the needs and expectations of a highly committed and engaged citizenry,” Ott wrote.
She has been at the helm through the transition to a new council after the March municipal elections brought three new members on board, and also for the hiring of the city’s first communications director.
“We have room for improvement in Aspen’s government operations and your recent retreat identified several areas that align to my personal values and interest. I offer you the administrative leadership, support and direction to move our community forward through your elected leadership and policy,” she said.
Three other candidates are each serving in leadership roles in resort communities in the West.
Robb Etnyre is currently the general manager of the Tahoe Donner homeowners association, which includes a ski resort, golf course and 6,500 residents. He has served in that role for a decade.
Etnyre also is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. In his cover letter, he noted that his experience is in line with Aspen’s needs.
“I have a unique background of leadership in government service, resort management and community building that should complement the skill set of a focused team of management and elected professionals with the city of Aspen,” he said.
Finalist Katherine Warren Lewis has family in Carbondale. She wrote in her cover letter that she’s familiar with Aspen’s unique, tight-knit community. She previously served as town attorney for Alta, Utah, which is home to a ski resort, and currently is lead counsel for community and economic development for Salt Lake City, where she has been active in affordable housing issues.
“I am well-versed in affordable housing, transit, environmental and economic development issues for both large municipalities and mountain resort communities. I understand the challenges facing local governments and I am prepared to immediately apply these skills in Aspen,” Lewis wrote in her application.
Blair King is currently city manager of Coronado, California, a position he has held since 2010. Coronado is a beach resort with a population of nearly 25,000 residents.
He also has served as city manager for the California municipalities of Lodo, Half Moon Bay, Imperial Beach and Soledad.
“My management style is open, hands-on, collaborative and results-oriented. I believe that civility, humor and pleasantness are essential ingredients for city management,” he wrote in his application.
The four candidates have been asked to prepare a 20-minute presentation for the council as part of next week’s interview process. The presentation must address some component of the Aspen Area Community Plan, the guiding vision for the future of Aspen. The plan addresses issues such as growth management, housing and transportation.
The directive is for the candidates to offer specific solutions to one of the topics in the plan. The presentations will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday in council chambers. The public is invited to attend or stream online through Facebook or GrassrootsTV. Feedback will be accepted in person or through emails to email@example.com.
All four applicants will be present for a less formal public meet and greet that evening. They also will meet with city staff and a select panel made up of local business leaders.
On the next day, Aug. 9, the council will be in executive session as they interview the candidates one-on-one while the others are given the opportunity to explore Aspen. Council members then will continue their executive session to discuss their choices. Public feedback is due by Aug. 11.
Another executive session to continue deliberation and discussions of city manager finalists is scheduled for Aug. 13.