A special presentation to the Green Mountain Falls’ board of trustees Oct. 15 by Sam Mamet, executive director of Colorado Municipal League, and Clay Brown, regional manager of the Department of Local Affairs, offered decades of wisdom about local government.
The presentation was a response to a proposal by Jane Newberry, mayor pro tem, two weeks earlier that the board appoint a town manager, specifically, Rob McArthur, public works director.
“Hiring a town manager is a simple proposition, not rocket science,” Mamet said. “The decision is purely yours. The town board sets policy and the manager, the appointee of the town board, carries out those policies.”
Of 158 statutory towns in Colorado, 44 have town managers; the closest to Green Mountain Falls is Monument. “The choice is simply yours,” Mamet said.
If the board votes to appoint a town manager, the next step is to create an ordinance which spells out the duties. “The clearer the better,” he said. “You don’t do this on a whim and a handshake.”
Hiring a town manager is not a change in the form of government, said Brown, former town manager for Frasier who moved up to the position as the director of the public works department. “A strong relationship between the board and the manager is critical.”
With the municipal election in April, Mayor Lorrie Worthey asked about the time frame for appointing a manager. “Typically, the hiring process is 60 to 90 days after you make the decision,” Brown said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to hire close to an election.”
Trustee Mac Pitrone then asked if it is appropriate to hire a current employee as the manager. “It’s your prerogative,” Mamet said. “You’re the town board. The greatest asset the town has is the employees.”
Nonetheless, the board should incorporate funds for a town manager in the budget planning process which begins this month, Brown said. The board could then hire somebody by the first of January which gives the new manager time to get familiar with the community.
When it comes to paying for a town manager, the board should consider the location. “You’re in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area; therefore, you’re going to be governed by that,” Mamet said. “Secondarily, good talent comes at a price.”
In Woodland Park, the council sets the policy and the city manager executes those policies, said David Buttery, city manager, who was in the audience. “Certainly I make recommendations to them, as it relates to budget issues but they’re the bosses and I understand that,” he said. “So the relationship is built on a foundation of trust. It seems to work for Woodland Park.”
Before being appointed city manager, Buttery directed the public works department. The town manager has to be apolitical, Brown added. “You’ve got to work or the current board and then the next board,” he said. “So your job is to carry out policy. You’ve got to help manage that community to be successful. That’s why you can’t get involved in politics.”