2022 in Review: One Glenwood city manager’s legacy ends, and the long search for a worthy replacement | PostIndependent.com

2022 in Review: One Glenwood city manager’s legacy ends, and the long search for a worthy replacement

City of Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa speaks to members of the community and other officials during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the South Midland Project.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The prior Glenwood Springs city manager served the city for more than six years, leaving a strong legacy and some pretty big shoes to fill.

Debra Figueroa began her service to the city in 2016 and resigned over the summer in June of 2022.  

Figueroa led the city through the replacement of the 27th Street Bridge, reconstruction of South Midland Avenue, redevelopment of the Seventh Street plaza area following completion of the new Grand Avenue Bridge, construction of the West Midland Trail, enhancement of the shorelines at Two Rivers and Veltus parks, completion of the Eighth Street Connection, transition to 100% renewable electric energy and water infrastructure improvements following the Grizzly Creek Fire and subsequent debris flows.

Leaving the public position, she stuck with grant writing which city leaders lauded as one of her strongest skills as the city manager. She started working for Sustainable Strategies DC, a grant writing and advocacy firm based in Washington, D.C., but with offices in Colorado. 

Since Figueroa’s departure, Glenwood Springs City Council has conducted two searches for her replacement. 

The first search included one of Figueroa’s understudies, former Glenwood Springs assistant city manager and community and economic development director Jen Ooton, who had worked for the city since 2016. Ooton won an award as Assistant City Manager of the year in 2020.  

“Her work on initiatives like our community listening sessions, shop local campaign, and United to Stop the Spread helped our community push through this difficult year and build resiliency for our future. It was my honor to nominate her for this award,” Figueroa said in prior reporting in 2020. “Ooton was recognized for her exceptional public leadership in Glenwood Springs.”

The initial city manager search this year narrowed down to three finalists, including Ooton. All had extensive experience working as or with a city manager, along with experience in grant writing to continue the road to infrastructural success paved by Figueroa. 

All three finalists were rejected for the position with council’s hope of finding a candidate who would make a better fit for the city. 

“I’ll speak on behalf of the majority of council that finding that right fit and a candidate who could fill that seat is the most important thing right now,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said in a council meeting on Sept. 21. “We’re disappointed that we didn’t find anybody through this first round. We’re hopeful that the second round will produce somebody.”

Not all of council voted to continue the search, with Councilor Tony Hershey motioning to pick a new city manager from the first group of finalists.

After not being chosen for city manager in Glenwood Springs, Ooton left and headed upvalley to Aspen, now working as the senior project manager for the city of Aspen. 

With the second round search still in process, the city narrowed down the candidates to three new finalists right before the holiday season.  

Although not all of the candidates have as extensive experience working as or with city managers, they all have different levels of management experience for running large-scale operations. Each has worked in some capacity as a manager or CEO, delegating employees and budget spending.

They are: 

  • Doug Gerber from Silver Lake, Kansas, who has an entire career working as and with city managers throughout the state of Kansas.
  • Beverli Marshall from La Quinta, California, who has served as a CEO in the wastewater and sanitary district in multiple cities in California. 
  • Rachel Oys from Eagle, who has worked as the interim manager for Eagle County and is currently working as a manager for the Cordillera Metro District and the Cordillera Property Owners Association. 

In the new year, the second batch of finalists are scheduled to come to Glenwood Springs so residents and council can meet them and get to know them more personally. A public meet-and-greet is slated for 6-7:30 p.m. on Jan. 5 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Council plans to appoint a new city manager by the end of January.

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.

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