Snowmass losing town manager
August 23, 2006
Another big change has rocked Snowmass, and this time it’s in the town government.Town Manager Mike Segrest is leaving his job effective Nov. 3, Mayor Doug Mercatoris confirmed Wednesday. The search for a replacement will begin immediately.”I am very appreciative of Mike’s many accomplishments during his tenure,” Mercatoris said. In a letter to the Snowmass community, Segrest stated: “With both reluctance and anticipation I have decided to resign as your town manager. I feel that it is time for me to concentrate on my personal life and let someone else tackle the challenges ahead as Base Village is constructed and decisions must be made on the potential redevelopment of the [Snowmass Mall].”
Segrest told department heads Tuesday afternoon that public criticism of his job performance did not prompt his decision, according to Police Chief Art Smythe.”We basically hired him off a sailboat in the Caribbean. I’m sure getting back to those days is certainly on his mind. This is definitely a high-pressure position,” Smythe said. Bob Purvis was a member of the Town Council when Snowmass Village hired Segrest in June 2002 after a nationwide search. On the cusp of the Base Village approval process, elected officials were seeking a strong leader who was capable of reaching goals. In that regard, Segrest is said to have been a success. However, Purvis, who is now a private citizen, is among those who believes Segrest went too far.”I think Mike was tending to try to set the agenda rather than facilitate council and letting the mayor set the agenda, and then working to support achievement of that agenda,” Purvis said. “He was less of a team player than we would have wished.”Segrest seemed more popular with managers than the rank and file, which Smythe acknowledged.
“In comparing him to our previous manager, there may have been a disconnect in terms of his personal relationship with employees. He doesn’t reach out to them as much as the previous manager,” Smythe said. Some town staffers perceived Segrest as a “hired gun” who was only in place to do the bidding of Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest, which are building the Base Village.One frequent criticism of Segrest held that he was overpaid. According to town’s finance department, the budget for 2006 lists Segrest’s salary at $133,349 for payroll and $56,016 in benefits. In 2004, research showed that he was the highest-compensated town manager on the Western Slope, besting those in larger municipalities, including Aspen, Vail, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs. At the time, County Commissioner Jack Hatfield criticized the town for being “totally irresponsible with our public dollars.”It did not escape the public’s notice that while Segrest lived in town-provided housing, he also owned a free-market unit in Seasons Four, as well as other properties on the Western Slope and in California. Segrest noted in his letter to the community that he and his wife are looking forward to residing in the Seasons Four condo.
Segrest was also controversial for firing an planner who criticized the Base Village project and process. Carolyn Poissant lost her job in October 2003 after a newspaper article identified her as “a female planner” (she was the only woman in the department at the time). Poissant alleged backroom negotiations by Intrawest and the town.Mercatoris said that while Segrest himself is earning “a considerable amount,” Mercatoris wouldn’t be surprised if his successor earned a comparable salary.”We need a highly qualified, very good town manager to help us through this transition time in the community,” Mercatoris said. “The next couple of years are as important as the preceding years,” he said.Jeff Tippett, a former Snowmass mayor who was on the search committee that hired Segrest wasn’t all that surprised that he decided to leave now. “When we interviewed Mike in 2002, this is about the time frame I felt that he wanted to work. He was retired and we hired him out of retirement.”Now, Segrest can return to that retirement. In his letter he noted that he and his wife “look forward to more time to hike, ski and just enjoy life.