Ooton named Glenwood assistant city manager; will lead economic and community development
After an unsuccessful national search for someone to fill the newly combined community and economic development director position for Glenwood Springs, the city has turned to someone already in its fold to take on the challenge.
Jenn Ooton, who was hired last year as the assistant to City Manager Debra Figueroa and public information officer for the city, has been promoted to assistant city manager.
Among her duties will be to oversee the city’s new economic development efforts as well as be in charge of the community development department, following the departure last year of longtime community development director Andrew McGregor.
“Economic development is a love of mine, and it’s obviously an area where we want to focus more as a city as we look to grow our businesses and work with people who want to have businesses here,” Ooton said.
Figueroa said she tried “a couple times” to hire for the economic development director position, without success. She acknowledged that the area’s high cost of living, especially for housing, was a factor in the recruiting effort. The economic development job will include working on ways to address the affordable housing issue, she said.
“I know Jenn is very qualified for the position, and that she also wanted to stay on her city manager track,” Figueroa said of Ooton, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. “We are trying to make the best use of the internal talent that we have.”
Ooton was one of three senior city staff hires announced late last week.
Brian Smith, a former recreation supervisor in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and Provo City, Utah, started Monday as the new director of parks and recreation. He succeeds Tom Barnes, who left the city earlier this year.
Also, Eric Arnette, who joined the city in 2013 as network administrator and more recently served as assistant director of broadband, was named earlier this month as the city’s new director of information systems. He succeeds Bob Farmer, who left the city for a private sector job.
In addition to her public administration graduate degree, Ooton earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was with the city of Lafayette marketing the city’s downtown and working with merchants to enhance their efforts, and worked with consultants to develop Lafayette’s 2011 Downtown Vision.
In 2015-16 she worked as director of the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority and as a community development specialist and planner. She also worked with property owners and developers on redevelopment and infill projects in the city’s commercial core. Prior to her local government experience, Ooton was the editorial page editor for the Longmont Times-Call newspaper.
“We have a lot of things to move forward here in Glenwood Springs in terms of redevelopment,” Ooton said, citing the city’s successful effort to obtain an EPA grant last year to come up with a redevelopment master plan tying together several brownfield properties, including the former sewer plant site in the river confluence area.
“I look forward to being part of a team effort to make sure we are achieving our goals in terms of re-envisioning those areas,” she said. “Two Rivers Park is already a crown jewel of the community, and to have something on the other side of where the rivers meet would create a focal point for the city.”
While Ooton will oversee the community development department as a whole, senior planner and acting community development director Gretchen Ricehill will continue in her oversight of the planning division.
As head of Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation and the Glenwood Community Center, Smith said he also looks forward to working on the city’s various parks- and facilities-related master plans that are in process.
“Glenwood Springs is just absolutely gorgeous, and I am impressed with the City Council’s priorities and agenda for making improvements in the community,” Smith said.
Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation management and youth leadership, and received a master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University. He has worked in the recreation field for more than 15 years and says he enjoys getting out into the community and meeting residents to understand their vision for the city’s open spaces and recreational offerings.
During his career, Smith has worked in various capacities, including operating a high adventure travel business, running the largest municipal recreation center in the country, and creating popular outdoor recreation offerings and special events in both Utah and Wisconsin.
As information systems director, Arnette brings over 15 years of experience in retail, startup and health care IT systems, including infrastructure design and management. He is currently completing a master’s degree in cyber security and information assurance, and he teaches IT security for Colorado Mountain College.
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.