Aspen electeds evaluate performance of City Hall’s top administrator
Aspen City Manager Sara Ott gets first annual review behind closed doors and 4% raise
Aspen City Council held its last meeting of 2020 on Monday, the majority of which was behind closed doors as it wrapped up its performance evaluation of City Manager Sara Ott.
Council met in executive session for more than four hours Monday. It has held two prior closed-door meetings regarding Ott’s evaluation — on Nov. 17 and Dec. 3, which were both more than two hours long.
Mayor Torre read a statement after returning to council’s special meeting at 8:30 p.m. that said Ott has exceeded expectations since she took the position permanently in September of 2019.
Council agreed to give her a 4% raise on her $203,000 annual salary, plus benefits.
“Sara has exceeded many, many of the high expectations that this City Council has had for our city manager,” Torre said. “In particular she has advanced organizational and cultural changes to the city government, has made significant progress on council’s goals, including affordable housing, child care and I would add in there our waste management and diversion programs, provided strong administrative leadership … stabilized finances and supports the city’s workforce.
“She’s gained the confidence and trust of this City Council, staff and community partners,” he continued. “We look forward to Sara’s continued focus on strengthening communications with the council, media and community.”
Council engaged in a new process for the evaluation of the city manager, based upon supporting elected officials with their policy roles, internal administration, finances, relations with other governments and job effectiveness.
It involved a facilitator to develop consensus, as well as establishing measurements to gauge performance.
The city in October hired facilitator Sheryl Trent of SBrand Consulting, a Fort Collins-based consulting firm, for just over $4,000.
She has been involved in helping council evaluate Ott’s job performance for the past year.
That work has included creating an evaluation document, having one-on-one confidential conversations with each council member, as well as with Ott and other managers in the organization, to capture common themes and ideas, according to the contract between SBrand Consulting and the city.
“The confidential interview process gives the people who have a significant influence on the organization a chance to candidly express their interests, concerns and perspectives,” reads SBrand’s proposal. “(It) provides a framework for the facilitator to gather any sensitive information that people may feel uncomfortable bringing to the table. This allows the facilitator to ensure that all key issues are dealt with.”
Based on that information and the discussions in the facilitated executive sessions, a final performance evaluation document t will be created, along with a set of performance goals for the coming year.
Torre said on Monday before the special meeting that the newly formed process is an improvement from past evaluations of the city manager.
“It wasn’t as robust,” Torre said. “This is the foundation and I think there are a few things we will tweak and improve so it’s a definite start and I’m just so excited that we are putting in this tested and approved process.”
Monday’s executive session was the final one regarding Ott’s evaluation. Performance goals for Ott and city staff for the upcoming year will be made public once the process is complete.
Ott was hired as Aspen’s city manager in the summer of 2019, after serving as interim city manager since February of that year when Steve Barwick was asked to resign.
In September, council members gave Ott high marks on her performance, saying she has handled the COVID-19 response well, and her work with the community, staff and council has brought a new level of engagement and professionalism.
During that same time, Ott gave herself a seven or eight on a scale of 10 on job performance for the past year.
A civil deputy kept her job and was mandated to undergo counseling after Aspen police arrested her in July on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving.
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