Barwick hopes to hire new head Aspen planner next week |

Barwick hopes to hire new head Aspen planner next week

Rick Carroll/The Aspen Times

City Manager Steve Barwick said he hopes to make an offer next week to one of the two candidates in the running for the director of the Community Development Department.

Finalists Sheryl Bower and Jessica Garrow did their final public interviews Thursday, this time in front of the Historic Preservation Commission. On Wednesday, they made their pitches to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Barwick attended the meetings and will conduct his own interviews. Whomever is hired is Barwick’s call.

But the position of Community Development director — who oversees the city’s building, planning and zoning departments — might have gotten too big. Commissioner Gretchen Greenwood said she has experienced inefficiency in Community Development, noting there appears to be a disconnect among its divisions.

“Can I ask if the job is too large for one person?” Nora Berko said.

Barwick replied that he’s considering making the building office a stand-alone office.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission, after interviewing the two, noted their qualifications and differences. The chief separation between the two candidates is that Garrow, a senior planner, has worked a decade for the city. Bower, a Buffalo, New York, native, currently runs the Community Development Department for the Longwood municipal government in Florida.

Pros and cons come with hiring either candidate, Historic Preservation commissioners said.

Garrow’s institutional knowledge can’t be replaced, while Bower could bring a fresh approach to a department that has been under intense public scrutiny in recent years because of Aspen’s polarizing development environment.

“They all have planning office experience, they all have resort experience, which in my mind is critical,” Barwick said.

“Jessica obviously has a deep understanding of our community and strong dedication to our community for 10 years,” commission member Michael Brown said. “She lives in affordable housing, and I’ve always been impressed with her ambition and wanting to excel in her career.”

Other commissioners agreed, but they also found strong traits in Bower, who said she wouldn’t start the position by overhauling the department’s practices and policies. Bower admitted she has much to learn about Aspen, but her background of working for various city administrations demonstrates her ability to adapt.

“There may be a time for a little shake-up with fresh ideas,” commission member Gretchen Greenwood said.

Boyer said she appreciates Aspen’s progressive policies. Garrow said her time with the city shouldn’t be held her against her in the hiring process. While she said she respected her predecessor, Chris Bendon, who resigned at the end of the year, she has her own sets of goals and philosophies when it comes to running the Community Development Department.

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