Manager hopefuls to see psychologist |

Manager hopefuls to see psychologist

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

You may have to be crazy in the first place to want to be the town manager in Snowmass Village. But at least before you are hired, you’ll be checked out by an industrial psychologist.

The Snowmass Village Town Council has hired a psychologist to interview the five candidates in the running for the open town manager position. The job pays in the $80,000 range and comes with a house in the resort village.

“It adds a measure of feedback that we are not capable of getting,” said Town Councilman Dick Virtue, who has used industrial psychologists when hiring managers at his two private companies.

Today and tomorrow, Dennis Whittaker, Ph.D., an industrial psychologist from North Carolina, will be meeting with the candidates. He will give them a written test and then talk with them for about two hours each.

On Tuesday, he will then brief council members on each of the candidates and make a recommendation. The council will also be interviewing the candidates on Tuesday and Wednesday in closed executive sessions.

Virtue, who runs an industrial metals company and a marketing company, has used Whittaker and another psychologist to help him hire about 50 managers.

“Not everyone that we hired with their recommendation worked out, but every single person that we hired against their recommendation didn’t work out,” he said.

Whittaker will tell the council what he thought about each candidate’s intelligence, communication skills, self-esteem level and other relevant work-related attributes. They will also report if they find out anything that might raise a concern, such as an unexplained gap in someone’s work history.

“They are pretty good at getting right to the heart of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses,” Virtue said.

The town manager position opened up when veteran manager Gary Suiter resigned in January.

Over 300 resumes were received by the town, and Virtue and Councilman Bob Purvis, a former executive with British Petroleum, each took half the stack of resumes and chose 50 candidates.

Then, they swapped piles of resumes and further winnowed the field down to 30 candidates.

At that point, the 30 resumes were forwarded to a citizens committee that included Councilman Doug Mercatoris, former Snowmass Village Mayor Jeff Tippett, Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe, town finance director Marianne Rakowski, former Aspen Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Chris Nolen, Snowmass Land Co. executive John Sarpa and retired corporate executive Paul Fee.

The committee conducted phone interviews with many of the candidates and got the list down to five people.

While the names of the remaining five have not been released, four of them have experience as town managers in Colorado and one is a business consultant on the Front Range.

None of the candidates are from the Roaring Fork Valley, and in fact there were very few local applicants, which surprised Virtue. “I thought maybe we didn’t do something that we should have,” he said.

The names of the three finalists are expected to be released by the town early this week.

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