Aspen’s former mayor Steve Skadron starts as dean, vice president of CMC’s Aspen, Carbondale campuses
Bringing on former Aspen mayor Steve Skadron as dean of the Aspen and Carbondale campuses for Colorado Mountain College was a strategic hire and one that did not require looking outside of the valley, said the school’s president and CEO last week.
“One of the things I have learned in almost six years on the job is being able to hire locally, they are the ones who stay,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, who oversees all 10 CMC campuses.
“They know how to make it work here and it’s not the easiest thing, so I really put a high premium on people who live here locally that are known quantities that have staying power and are really committed to these communities.”
As president and CEO of the publicly-funded institution, Hauser has full authority to hire whomever she wants, and engaging in national searches to fill key positions doesn’t always pay off, she said.
“We have found particularly in this job market that they are expensive, they are challenging and they take a massive amount of time,” she said, adding that if a new employee from outside the valley does actually show up, they rarely end up staying longer than two years.
Oftentimes it’s 90% fit and 10% resume, Hauser added, and there’s no disputing Skadron’s commitment.
Skadron, who served as mayor for six years as well as on Aspen City Council and the planning and zoning commission, and has worked as an adjunct professor at CMC, starts his job as vice president and dean Monday.
Hauser said a better title for Skadron’s position is “campus leader” because “dean” denotes academia.
While he doesn’t have formal higher education administration experience or direct management experience, the job is more about community relations and strategic thinking, Hauser said.
When Dr. Linda Crockett announced she was going back to teaching and leaving the position, Skadron’s tenure as an elected official was ending.
Hauser, who has had a close working relationship with Skadron on community issues while he was mayor, said the timing was right.
“The interest in this case was not to lose momentum because we have a lot stuff going on on this campus right now,” she said, “and to have someone conveniently be the right fit was a unique opportunity.”
One of Skadron’s biggest tasks will be leading CMC’s plans to expand its Aspen campus near the airport to include student housing.
The school also wants to start a hospitality/tourism/culinary arts program at the Aspen campus.
Knowing how to navigate through the land-use process and get community buy-in are skills that are in Skadron’s wheelhouse.
“The most important thing is that CMC is really sensitive to listening to the neighbors’ concerns,” Skadron said. “I know that lesson.”
Big on environmental initiatives and representing Aspen on a global stage in those efforts, Skadron also will be asked to help CMC focus on sustainability at all of its campuses.
The college owns 1,200 acres, and Skadron will be focused on how to best use that land for not only the school but also for the communities where the campuses are.
Strengthening the alignment between Aspen and Carbondale is a task Skadron said he is most excited about, as well as honing in on secondary education for the local immigrant population.
The end goal is to create a diverse workforce for the Roaring Fork Valley communities that are in desperate need due to the high cost of living and a lack of housing.
“How do we deliver for the community?” Hauser asked. “Steve knows this community and can help CMC position itself to provide that economic sustainability.”
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Aspen City Council members said they still want to forge ahead with work around affordable housing, child care and environmentalism as the city remains in response mode to COVID-19.