As the city of Aspen recruits its next community development director, it is seeking input from constituents who know the office best.

The city asked some 800 planning, engineering and contracting professionals who are signed up to receive newsletters from the community development department to fill out a survey about what they would like to see in the next leader. The community development department oversees planning and zoning, historic preservation, building review and environmental health.

The survey, available online, contains seven questions and can be filled out in under 10 minutes. Responses are anonymous and will be shared with city leaders and top candidates.

The first question asks, “What skills and leadership attributes does the community development director need to demonstrate to be successful in this role?” Respondents are asked to pick three out of a list of 26 qualities that all would be useful for a hire that, according to the job description, must be “a problem-solver who sees the big picture, identifies creative solutions, and demonstrates sound judgment and decision-making skills.”

Another question asks, “What do you believe are the three most pressing issues facing the city of Aspen?” Possible responses are: access to locally grown food; air quality; availability of workforce housing; development of multi-modal transportation options (pedestrian, bicycle, etc.); economic development without development; energy efficiency; protecting the health and volume of water in the Roaring Fork River; traffic; water conservation; waste diversion and reduction; or other (please specify).

Some questions are open-ended, including: What advice do you have for the next community development director and where do you see the city of Aspen in 10 years?

The city posted the community development director job in late September. It is seeking to replace Jessica Garrow, a longtime planner in the office who became director in 2016 and stepped down to work for a private landscape architecture and planning firm in August.

The position oversees 27 employees and commands a salary range of $115,154 to $161,791, according to the job description available from The Novak Consulting Group, which is the executive search firm hired by the city to help recruit candidates. A minimum of five years of experience in the field, two of which should be at supervisory level, is required.

“The director fully appreciates Aspen’s rich history and has a vision for moving the organization and department forward,” says the job description. “This individual understands the importance of preserving the community’s culture and identity. … The model candidate is a strong communicator who can engage successfully with different audiences and is resilient and calm in the face of controversy.”

The city will be accepting applications for the position through Nov. 1.

Alissa Farrell, the city’s director of human resources, said this is the first time that stakeholders have been asked to take a survey as part of the recruitment process for the community development director. When the city was hiring for the position in 2016, it held community meet and greets with finalists, she said.

The city hopes that its preferred candidate will have accepted a job offer to become the next community development director by the end of the year, Farrell said.

Meanwhile, Sara Ott, who became Aspen’s latest city manager in August after serving in the interim role since February, is in the process of evaluating the structure of the city manager’s office before determining what to do about assistant city manager-level openings. 

Ott, who was hired in 2017, was one of two assistant city managers under Steve Barwick. Shortly before Barwick stepped down, the other assistant city manager at the time, Barry Crook, also stepped down. When Ott was appointed as interim city manager, she named Farrell and public works director Scott Miller as interim assistant city managers, though both Farrell and Miller continue to oversee their respective departments. That interim assistant city manager structure has been extended through December, Farrell said. 

Whether the city will seek two permanent assistant city managers or pursue a new structure for senior management is to be determined pending Ott’s evaluation, which includes listening sessions with community stakeholder groups and city employees.

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.