City hires Jessica Garrow to run Community Development
City Manager Steve Barwick didn’t have to look far to find the next director of the Community Development Department.
Barwick announced Tuesday the promotion of long range planner Jessica Garrow, 33, to run the department, which includes the city’s building, historic preservation, and planning and zoning offices.
Her starting salary is $113,610.
The position attracted 40 applicants, leading to the selection of four finalists. Two of them, however, dropped out, leaving Garrow and Sheryl Bower, director of Community Development Services for the city of Longwood, Florida, as the remaining two candidates.
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“We were fortunate to have finalists with excellent skills, experience and understanding of resort communities,” Barwick said in a statement. “Jessica rose to the top due to her deep understanding of Aspen’s values and her commitment to making improvements in the department. Jessica’s local knowledge and experience will be a real asset in dealing with the challenges Aspen is facing in the near future.”
Barwick said he based his decision on feedback from the Historic Preservation and Planning and Zoning boards, both of which conducted public interviews of Bower and Garrow the last week of February. A selection committee — comprised of Barwick, Assistant City Managers Barry Crook and Randy Ready, Human Resources Director Alyssa Farrell, City Attorney Jim True and Public Works Director Scott Miller — also weighed in on the decision.
Not influencing the outcome was a group of Aspen activists, including Maurice Emmer and Ward Hauenstein, who circulated an informal online petition that aimed to appoint a citizens’ commission of at least five members who would work with Barwick to establish criteria and a search process for the new director.
Barwick said such a commission would politicize the selection process for a position that should be apolitical.
Garrow said she will have an open-door policy to address community concerns. Community engagement, she said, is one of her strong suits.
“I think it’s important to have an open door to anyone in the community,” she said. “Anybody who has questions, concerns, comments, I really want to hear that.”
The position came open when Chris Bendon, Garrow’s predecessor, resigned at the end of the 2015 to launch a private planning firm.
Garrow has worked for the city since 2006, during which time she oversaw the update to the Aspen Area Community Plan, the creation of a transportation mitigation system that ensures that all development offsets its trip generation through programs and infrastructure that support alternative transportation, and facilitated other important code changes like reducing heights downtown.
Married with a 21/2-year-old daughter, Garrow has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado and a master’s in city and regional planning from Ohio State University.
Her application for the Community Development director summed up her approach toward the job.
“The Community Development Director is an apolitical position requiring constant focus on engaging the community vision, fairly administering the land use and building codes and providing clear advice and recommendations to City Council. I have successfully navigated this difficult balance over my tenure with the city and am prepared to do so in the future.”
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