Familiar face to be next Basalt town manager
A man who weathered some of the most tumultuous times as a top bureaucrat in Aspen was selected yesterday as the new town manager of Basalt.
Bill Efting, a former assistant city manager in Aspen, was selected from three finalists who were interviewed Monday by the Basalt Town Council. The council’s choice was unanimous after a discussion, according to Mayor Pro Tem Anne Freedman.
Efting was offered the job on the same day that three finalists were interviewed. There were a total of 30 applicants for the position, which is being vacated by Tom Baker.
Efting is a familiar face in the Roaring Fork Valley. He worked for the city of Aspen from 1986 until 1996, first as the recreation director, then as head of leisure services and ultimately as assistant city manager starting in 1989.
Efting happened to be the acting manager when Aspen waged two of its ugliest political battles ” a vote on a proposal to ban sales of furs from animals caught in leghold traps and a recall aimed at the mayor and majority of council members.
He said he recalled leaving work at City Hall and seeing satellite trucks of the three major networks parked outside almost daily during that period. The fur ban proposal put Aspen in the international spotlight.
Efting is currently head of the recreation department in Glenwood Springs. He will leave that position and take the helm in Basalt in early February.
Likes town’s direction
Efting said he applied for the Basalt position because he’s “liked what they’ve done over the last five years.” He credited Baker for helping boost citizen involvement in government and creating land-use master plans that chart the town’s future.
Efting said it was also important to him that the Basalt government reacted so well to the tough economic times that followed Sept. 11, 2001.
“They did a good job of tightening their belt last year, and it’s paying off in the 2004 budget,” he said.
Efting said he will bring a “hands-on” type of management. “My biggest thing in management is no surprises,” he said.
Whether it’s good news or bad news, the Town Council will know about it. He also vowed to go out of his way to meet business owners and citizens, and to make sure Town Hall is accessible.
The Aspen Times once did a story about how Efting received a telephone call from a disgruntled citizen while he was assistant manager in Aspen. The man complained that the city plow pushed a ridge of snow into the driveway he had just cleared by shovel. Efting grabbed a shovel and went over to the guy’s house to help dig the driveway back out.
“I like him because he’s got really strong personal skills, he’s really smart and gets along with everybody,” said Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. She’s known Efting since the 1980s, when they both worked for the city of Aspen.
Whitsitt said Efting and Baker have different managerial styles, but she didn’t expect to see a “drastic, drastic change” in the direction of the town government.
One interesting area to watch could be land use. Baker was a longtime land-use planner with the Aspen/Pitkin County Planning Department and later headed the upper valley’s housing authority. A lot of the work he performed with Basalt was directed at controlling growth and creating an employee housing program.
Efting worked for six years as town manager in Avon. His tenure there included the town’s approval of a Wal-Mart Super Center and a Home Depot.
Efting explained that a developer was negotiating with Eagle County for the approval of those big-box retailers on a site at the outskirts of Avon. The town would have lost the tax revenues if the development wasn’t annexed.
“It was one of those deals where you almost had to make a deal with the devil to save the town,” Efting said.
He indicated the Basalt Town Council and citizens will dictate what level of growth is appropriate.
The town government wouldn’t disclose the other two finalists who were interviewed for the job.
Efting said he will rent an apartment in Basalt that is owned by the town. He will pay the same rent that was charged to tenants who weren’t employed by the town. His salary with the town will be $80,000.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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