Pitkin County begins search for a new manager

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
News Newspaper Text
Getty Images/Hemera | Hemera

ASPEN – Pitkin County will officially begin its search for County Manager Hilary Fletcher’s successor Wednesday, when the job is posted online at various sources.

The job description will also be mailed to qualified individuals who may have an interest in applying, though Fred Rainguet of executive search firm KRW Associates LLC said he does not expect a shortage of prospective candidates.

Rainguet, based in Palisade, is assisting the county in the search; KRW specializes in executive searches within the public sector, and he has also worked as a facilitator at both county and city of Aspen government retreats.

County commissioners agreed on a process to seek a new county manager Tuesday after debating the salary range for the post. Fletcher, who submitted her resignation late last month in order to take a job with a Denver firm that specializes in planning and engineering airport construction projects, currently earns $174,000 annually. She was appointed county manager in 2001 and has worked in county government for 22 years.

She urged commissioners to advertise a salary range of $150,000 to $175,000 – one consistent with what her peers in other resort communities earn, she said.

“The community deserves the best and the organization deserves the best,” Fletcher said.

Commissioner Jack Hatfield balked.

“I in no way want to offer a new manager the same salary that our superstar manager is leaving,” he said, instead suggesting a range of $125,000 to $150,000. “I think $150,000 to $175,000 is a huge place to start.

“I don’t want people here for the money. I want people here for the whole picture,” Hatfield added.

Candidates who are motivated by the salary should be vetted out through the interview process, Fletcher responded.

Commissioner Rachel Richards acknowledged the county’s budget uncertainties, but also the ability of a good county manager to save the government money.

“I don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish in this recruitment,” she said.

If the top candidates are all earning more than $200,000 in other jobs, the county will face a difficult decision no matter what it intended to pay, Commissioner Michael Owsley pointed out.

“To predecide what we’re going to pay is to predecide how limited we’re going to be,” he said.

With Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper absent, commissioners agreed to a base salary of $135,000 for the post with the ability for a candidate to negotiate a higher salary, depending on their qualifications.

The job ad calls for applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, and preferably a master’s degree, in business administration, public administration, management or a related field. Candidates must also have a minimum of 10 years of progressively responsible public administration experience, including experience as a county or city manager or assistant manager, or public-sector department head. Executives in the private or nonprofit sectors may also be considered.

Applications are due Oct. 12. Rainguet will winnow through the resumes with assistance from members of the county’s leadership team, made up of department supervisors.

Rainguet said he expects to see 30 to 70 applicants for the job, and maybe more.

“I think the real attraction here is it’s Pitkin County. I really do,” he said.

“I can tell you the phone’s ringing off the hook,” Fletcher said. “It’s been ringing off the hook for several weeks.”

Commissioners will probably see 10 to 12 resumes, from which they’ll select the finalists they want to interview in person. Rainguet said he’s aiming to have the interviews take place before Thanksgiving.

Finalists will be interviewed by a panel of county employees and a panel made up of commissioners, the commissioner-elect for the District 1 seat and several citizens to be chosen by commissioners.

The county will be expected to fly out-of-towners into Aspen and provide accommodations, Rainguet said.

Fletcher’s final day on the job is Sept. 24.


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