Interim Aspen city manager offered permanent job |

Interim Aspen city manager offered permanent job

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Sara Ott

After a five-month national search and 64 candidates to consider for Aspen’s next city manager, it was announced Wednesday that an employment contract has been negotiated with incumbent Sara Ott.

Aspen City Council will decide on the contract via a resolution during a special meeting on Tuesday.

Ott, 41, has been interim city manager since February at a salary of $195,255.

“I’m excited for the future of Aspen and I’m excited to be part of it for the long haul,” she said Wednesday, adding she won’t make any immediate changes and refrained from specifics on the future until her contract is approved. “I’ve got a lot of listening to do in the community. … It’s really valuable to me to listen with goodwill and intent.”

Previously an assistant city manager, Ott stepped into the city’s top administrative job after Steve Barwick, who was in the position for 19 years, was asked to resign in January.

If approved by council, Ott’s contract will be effective Sept. 1, which will coincide with the termination date of her being interim city manager.

Ott’s new salary will be $203,000, which was negotiated by herself, her attorney and city staff at the direction of council after a series of public interviews and closed-door sessions in the past several weeks.

Council has met at least six times in executive session to discuss whom to hire.

City Attorney Jim True said last week that no decision had been made and when it is time for that, it would be a public discussion.

That is expected to take place Tuesday at 4 p.m. in council chambers.

Mayor Torre said Ott rose to the top because of her experience, qualifications and commitment to the job and community.

“From the selection process, it was clear to me that Sara was checking the most boxes,” he said. “I’m very excited to work with her.”

The city this past spring hired national recruitment firm Peckham & McKenney for $25,000.

The original pool of applicants was culled to four finalists, one of whom dropped out before the interview process.

Ott beat out Robb Etnyre, the general manager and CEO of Tahoe Donner in Truckee, California, and Katherine Lewis, senior city attorney for Salt Lake City Corp.

Earlier this month, Ott, Etnyre and Lewis gave mock presentations to council centered on values stated in the Aspen Area Community Plan.

Ott chose affordable housing and was detailed in her presentation, having been immersed in current issues within the local program.

The finalists met with city staff and members of the public via a comnmunity reception, peer and technical reviews and in interviews with panels made up of local residents and department heads.

Ott had served as assistant city manager since May 2017 and her former salary was $162,843 before taking the interim job.

Ott said she and her husband plan to stay in Aspen to see their two young children, in third- and fifth-grades, graduate from the public school system.

Prior to coming to Aspen, Ott was the township administrator of Washington Township in Ohio and had served in that position since April 2014. She was selected out of a pool of 147 applicants.

“Sara stood out for her strong background in local government leadership and her impressive research of Aspen and insightful understanding of our community,” City Manager Steve Barwick said in a statement in 2017 when she was hired here. “She also met with many of our senior-level managers and received positive feedback from those interactions.”

Ott’s first job was doing community service in her local government in the town where she went to high school, and she has been working in the public sector ever since. In addition to being a township administrator, she has worked as a senior project manager and accreditation coordinator in Dublin, Ohio.

Ott has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government and urban studies from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master’s of public administration from the University of Kansas.

She has worked for cities in Missouri, Kansas and Ohio, and also has completed leadership training with the University of Virginia and the International City/County Management Association.

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