Candidates for Aspen City Council share their vision for new leadership |

Candidates for Aspen City Council share their vision for new leadership

Rachel Richards

The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen City Council to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.

We will publish one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through Friday.

Today is the second question getting to know the candidates and why they are the best fit for elected office.

Question 2: What attributes do we need in the new city manager and what kind of role should the city manager play in governance and community outreach?

Rachel Richards

A change in management is an opportunity to review an organization’s entire structure and align its budget, staffing and procedures to the goals and policies set by the governing body.

The hiring decision for the city of Aspen position is the most important one the City Council will make.

The right manager will spend time getting to know the community as much as taking stock of city operations, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each department, getting to know the employees and their jobs.


Editor’s note: The Aspen Times asked five questions of the four candidates vying for the two open seats on Aspen City Council, one held by incumbent Bert Myrin and one by Adam Frisch, who is term-limited. Ballots will be mailed to Aspen residents the week of Feb. 11. Election Day is March 5.

Question 1: What is your Aspen story and what makes you the best fit for city council?

Question 2: What attributes do we need in the new city manager and what kind of role should the city manager play in governance and community outreach?

Question 3: What are your top three ideas to produce more workforce housing where it would make a notable difference in the problem, which is that there is not enough of it?

Question 4: Does Aspen have a traffic problem? If yes, what’s your solution? If no, why do you believe that?

Question 5: Do you support $4.36 million of taxpayer money being paid to developers behind the Lift One Corridor plan, which has been described as a public-private partnership to redevelop the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side?

The new manager should review the city as a systems analyst looking for ways to modernize, simplify and streamline while improving quality and services. New eyes, when experienced, always see new opportunities.

The city of Aspen’s employees across all departments are smart, hardworking and dedicated to our community; one of the strongest assets the new manager will have as they take the reins.

It is important that they understand and value their human resources; employees who want clear direction and consistency from the City Council, and the support from management to deliver on community goals.

A good council manages its manager, and a good manager manages their council, helping the members sort through their differences, define their goals and measures of success. A good manager will help their council think as a team, pulling together to bring out the best in each other. They will keep updates and communications current between their council members for feedback, direction and status of issues.

I have worked through changes in management before and would like to see an open hiring process involving multiple interview panels, including citizens with Aspen roots and strong management experience, city department heads and front-line employees, meet-and-greets with the general public to help inform the City Council when making the hiring decision.

Bert Myrin

It takes a village. We have an opportunity to start a new chapter putting our local quality-of-life perspective first with new management, a new mayor and my passion on City Council. When we put our community first, I believe everything else will follow.

Linda Manning

I am in a unique position to answer this question, having worked inside City Hall for the past 10 years. The most important quality is the ability to inspire and motivate staff. From a staff perspective, the city manager is cheerleader, number one. He or she should be out in the departments getting to know employees and what we are working on.

They should be approachable. Any member of staff, from a part-time summer parks worker to a department head, should feel comfortable approaching the city manager. I feel this type of communication within city staff will translate to the community and help bridge the gap we are seeing between staff, council and the community when it comes to communication.

As far as governance goes, the city manager needs to make sure the right key people are in the right positions so when they are hiring their staff they hire people who will get the work done.

We need a city manager who acknowledges the importance of employee development, knowledge transfer and having a deep bench.

The city manager should not be the gatekeeper between staff and City Council but rather ensure that the information is being transferred successfully.

Just as the city manager should be approachable by staff, he or she should also be approachable to the community.

There is no hiding the city could do a better job in the outreach department. Should the city manager be leading the charge on that? Yes.

Skippy Mesirow

We now have the best opportunity in generations for a full-scale reorganization of City Hall. Our new city manager must be able to take a holistic look at our governance structure, with a view towards taking action in order to streamline operations and reduce costs.

In a manager-council form of government, the city manager needs to be a vocal, visible leader. For years, the city has suffered from having the opposite, and lower-level city staff have taken the heat on manager-level mistakes. The new manager needs to be responsible and inspirational, encouraging city staff and all of us in the community to participate in our public process, and feel invested in our present and future.

As a council member, I will seek a city manager who will support council in making the hard choices needed to improve our housing system, to support local businesses, and to solve the other challenges facing our community.

I would seek someone who lives, breathes and understands the Aspen Idea and lifestyle. In my experience, much of hiring is personality and cultural fit. For this reason, I will keep my mind open, and seek out different perspectives when evaluating candidates.

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