ASPEN - City Attorney John Worcester plans to retire about a month from now.
In an abrupt announcement Wednesday afternoon that caught many municipal employees by surprise, the city said that Worcester's retirement would become effective Feb. 20. He has worked for the City Attorney's Office for 21 years.
A statement from the city said that the Aspen City Council will consider a succession plan to appoint special counsel Jim True as the next city attorney.
"I have always been honored to say that I was the city attorney for the city of Aspen," Worcester, 64, said in a prepared statement. "The city had great foresight to put a succession plan in place years ago. Jim is well prepared and will do a fantastic job."
Mayor Mick Ireland, who also is an attorney, described Worcester as "an inspiration to all of us who have practiced law or engaged in community service."
He added, "John Worcester has honored the people of Aspen and his profession through the diligence, fairness and generosity of spirit incorporated in his service to the community. "
Worcester began his career with the city in 1990 as assistant city attorney under Jed Caswell. He was named city attorney in 1992.
Worcester has served five mayors during his tenure.
"It was an honor and my good fortune to have the counsel of an attorney who is caring, ethical, knowledgeable, professional, and whose integrity is beyond reproach," former mayor Helen Klanderud stated in the same city news release.
"The City of Aspen has been fortunate to benefit from John's years of service," Klanderud continued. "He is committed to legal services for all, and it was he, who as president of the Pitkin County Bar Association, delivered the first contribution from the Pitkin County Bar to fund Roaring Fork Legal Services, now known as Alpine Legal Services. With his commitment, he has continued to serve on its board."
Klanderud said Worcester "has a quiet sense of humor, and does not take himself too seriously. It is a pleasure to know him."
True is a former Pitkin County commissioner, having served two terms. He has practiced law in the area since 1979.
True began working for the city in 2007, initially as an outside independent counsel. He was hired as special counsel in December 2007 with the idea that he would succeed Worcester upon successful service to the city, the news release says.
Details of True's employment are currently being negotiated. A formal appointment may be forthcoming at the City Council's next regular meeting on Monday.
Worcester has been extremely active in the last few years, defending the city against lawsuits over voter ballot inspections, hydropower water rights, personnel issues and a host of other legal entanglements.
Worcester could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon. A City Hall insider who requested anonymity said that Worcester, who lives in the Cemetery Lane area, is planning to move to another area of Colorado to be closer to his grandchildren.