Carbondale town board begins process of finding new town manager
The town of Carbondale is setting out to look for its first new town manager in a decade.
Current Town Manager Jay Harrington, who has been with Carbondale for 10 years, was selected last week and accepted a new job as Routt County manager in Steamboat Springs, starting Sept. 20. He will remain at the helm in Carbondale until Sept. 10.
“This has been just a great place to raise a kid, and the support from the community on numerous fronts has been amazing,” Harrington said during the regular Tuesday night Board of Trustees meeting.
“It’s been an honor to be a caretaker of the local government. And I say that because you don’t really run Carbondale, you kind of just take care of it, because it kind of runs on its own and has its own pulse.”
That’s probably a good selling point in recruiting the next town manager, he said.
Already, Harrington said he’s been getting calls from prospective applicants.
“You will likely see a lot of interest both in the valley and outside,” he said. “It is a sought-out position.”
The timing could also coincide with one of the town’s employee housing units becoming available, Harrington noted.
He said his focus over the next couple of months will be to work with town staff to get the 2022 budget process to a good point before he leaves.
Harrington also recommended a town manager recruitment process to get things rolling as far as finding his replacement.
The town could handle things internally, or it could hire a national recruiting firm and gather applications from across the country, he said.
Harrington’s recommendation was for trustees to keep it more regional in nature and hire a recruiting firm that’s more familiar with the Western Slope and Carbondale in particular.
The board opted for the latter, agreeing to interview a pair of recruiting firms during a work session next week that have worked extensively on similar government administration searches in the area.
Those firms include KRW Associates, which just conducted the Routt County process that Harrington went through, and Andrew Gorgey, the former Garfield County manager and attorney who has worked recently with Peckham and McKenney executive search services and now has his own company, called Columbia Ltd.
The cost to hire an executive recruitment firm is expected to run in the range of $17,000 to $25,000, Harrington said.
Once retained, consultants would meet with the board to determine what qualities the town is looking for in a new manager and begin the application process.
Recruiters would also be responsible for handling background checking and the initial applicant screening before coming up with a group of finalists.
The firm would then arrange for in-person visits by finalists to tour the town, meet staff and community members in a meet-and-greet format and interview with staff and community panels and ultimately the town board.
Harrington said the search process is likely to take anywhere from three to five months, and some searches can take as long as eight months.
He said Carbondale is probably in a good position to complete the process on the shorter end of that time frame.
The Town Board will name an interim manager to serve until a new manager can be found.
“We do have some pluses going for us,” Trustee Marty Silverstein said. “We are financially stable as a town, so it’s easier to walk into something like that … and we have a good reputation.”
Silverstein noted, and other trustees agreed, that a nationwide search would likely be too time consuming and not as productive in finding a good fit for Carbondale.
Mayor Dan Richardson added that this will be the fourth town manager selection process he will have been involved with, including as a member of the public when Harrington was hired.
He strongly recommended having a citizens panel included as part of the interview process, and to involve the town’s Latino population as it did with last year’s search for a new Carbondale police chief.
In addition, past town trustees who’ve been through the manager search process before would be good resources, Richardson said.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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