Finalists announced for city of Aspen’s Community Development post

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Sheryl Bower

The three finalists for the director of the city of Aspen’s Community Development Department include two with strong ties to the Roaring Fork Valley and another with planning experience in Florida and New York.

The three finalists — Sheryl Bower, director of Community Development Services for the city of Longwood, Florida; Doug Dotson, outgoing city administrator of Canon City; and Jessica Garrow, long-range planner for the city of Aspen — were announced Tuesday. A fourth candidate dropped out earlier this week, said city spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin, noting there were 40 applications submitted for the job.

The finalists make public appearances starting today (Wednesday, Feb. 24) with separate, one-hour interviews by the Planning & Zoning Commission from 4 to 7 p.m.

A meet-and-greet is set for noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Aspen Fire Department, while the Historic Preservation Commission will interview the candidates from 3 to 6 p.m.

The Community Development director position became vacant when Chris Bendon left his post at the end of the year to start a private planning firm with senior planner Sara Adams. The position has an advertised monthly salary range of $9,191 to $12,405.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the finalists’ backgrounds.

Sheryl Bower

Bower has two bachelor’s degrees — one in landscape architecture, another in environmental studies — and obtained her master’s in urban planning from the State University of New York-University of Buffalo in 1993, according to her application, which along with the others are posted on the city’s website.

As director of Community Development for the city of Longwood, Florida, her job duties are similar to the Aspen post she is seeking.

Bower’s application notes that her department has worked to create an office that “is considered business friendly, provides all of its customers with a very high level of customer service and opportunity for meaningful engagement. Every code change brought forth, procedural change advanced, initiative created along with the development of staff resources has been undertaken to further this directive.”

Prior to joining the Longwood government in September 2009, Bower worked in both the private and public sectors in Florida and New York state.

Doug Dotson

Dotson, who has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Illinois State University and a master’s from Southern Illinois University in city and regional planning, is a familiar face in the Roaring Fork Valley.

He once ran a firm in Carbondale, before supervising the town’s Community Development Department from January 2001 to August 2010. He held the same position for seven years in Summit County, Utah, and was the town planner for Snowmass Village for a year and a half from 1983 to 1994.

Dotson joined the Canon City government in April 2011, first as Community Development director before being promoted to city administrator in June 2012. He tendered his resignation last month because he was seeking new opportunities, according to the Canon City Daily Record.

“I have guided and facilitated many outreach efforts and community dialogues,” his application states. “In this type of position, my general approach is to arrange and maintain ongoing community dialogues, not simply for a few months or only while a specific plan is being developed or a project is being reviewed.”

His application also states, “I do not consider myself pro-development or anti-development, but rather, I believe strongly that change is reasonable and appropriate when it aligns with core community values.”

Jessica Garrow

Garrow has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado and earned a master’s in city and regional planning from Ohio State University.

She has worked as the city of Aspen’s long-range planner since November 2007, during which time she was the project manager for the Aspen Area Community Plan. Garrow also worked as a planner for the city from June 2006 through November 2007.

Prior to her time with the city, she worked as a policy planner for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission from October 2004 to June 2006.

“I love working for a community so engaged in planning issues, and a council willing to take bold actions to preserve Aspen’s natural beauty, historic character and a built environment while pushing the envelope on planning and environmental initiatives,” her application states.

Garrow also said she understands the dynamics of Aspen’s building environment.

“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.”