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County differs on qualifications for its new manager

Allyn Harvey

It appears unlikely that the next county manager will be the applicant from Denver whose management experience is limited to a Big-O Tire store on the Front Range.

And it’s not too likely that a local columnist who has been threatening to apply is going to be among the finalists interviewed for the county’s top job, no matter how sparsely qualified the pool of applicants is.

The county commissioners have started the process of selecting a replacement for outgoing Pitco Manager Suzanne Konchan, who is retiring after nearly five years. And they’re hoping at least a few private citizens will help them make the choice by the end of January.

Finding a replacement won’t apparently be too easy. There are only a few applicants – 13 as of yesterday afternoon, a few hours before the deadline. But that didn’t stop the commissioners from deciding on a three-stage process for reviewing applications and settling on a group of finalists.

The first stage is the culling process. County staffers, most likely in the human resources department, will separate the applications into three categories. Category A will be made up of clearly qualified applicants, category B will include those whose resumes aren’t quite as good but are worth a second look, and category C is the reject pile.

The resumes from A and B list candidates will then be handed over to a committee made up of two commissioners, managers from two county departments and, the commissioners are hoping, two citizens. Their task will be to decide on a group of three to five finalists. The commissioners drew up a list yesterday of private citizens who might be willing to sit on the committee, including Mike Otte, John Sarpa, Bil Dunaway, Georgia Hansen and Bill Tomcich.

One of the challenges for the committee will be to keep the preferences of the county commissioners in mind.

Commissioner Mick Ireland said yesterday that he thinks it’s important the finalists have a clear understanding of the various land-use issues facing the county. “I don’t want to spend the next year educating them about takings law and the hazard review process,” he said.

But Commissioner Shellie Roy Harper doesn’t agree. “We don’t necessarily need a land-use expert as our next county manager.” She pointed out that the community development department is chock full of land-use experts and said she’d rather see the next county manager bring budgetary and administrative leadership experience to the job.

Commissioner Dorothea Farris wrangled briefly with Commissioner Patti Clapper over the importance of people skills and communication skills.

Clapper wondered aloud how you could judge someone’s people skills from a piece of paper, and Farris replied that the answer to that can be found in their communication skills, both on paper and in the interview.

“I don’t want the next manager of Pitkin County going out and saying, ‘Me and Mick did this, me and Mick did that,'” Farris said.

Once the pool is down to a few finalists, they will be interviewed twice – once by the commissioners and once by a committee made up of department heads and front-line employees at the county.

The commissioners would like to fill the position by the end of January, which would prevent the need for an interim manager. But Harper schooled her colleagues on the virtue of caution.

“If none of these 13 candidates are exactly right, I would rather spend another month or two finding the right one,” she said.


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