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Ted Wang: Town manager’s job is a complex one

Ted Wang " Mayor's Minutes

As is often the case, the New Year brings fresh challenges to local government, and this year certainly is no different.

In addition to all the routine activities (planning for summer projects, keeping up with snow, working on development, etc.), Granby is beginning the search for a new town manager. There have been some questions from the community about this, so this column will be devoted to town managers and the complex role they play.

It’s no accident that town managers only average about three years in each municipality they serve. Their jobs are complex, placing them right in the middle between elected boards and the community at large.

Managing staff and consultants, negotiating aspects of development, being engaged with the business community, helping prepare materials for and making presentations to the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees meetings, are just part of the job.

Communicating board policies and positions to developers, along with being actively involved in the discussions, and bringing the results of those meetings back to the boards are major activities specific to Granby at this point in our history.

In most Colorado small towns, a “strong manager/weak mayor,” sometimes called “manager/council,” form of government is used. Managers handle the day-to-day operations of the town, because mayors and trustees are essentially volunteers, most without formal training in municipal management and with careers and family demands on their time as well.

Your elected officials are citizens, like yourself, whom you choose to represent your interests and who work to make good decisions for the entire community.

To draw a business world comparison, your mayor is the chief executive officer (CEO), your board of trustees the board of directors, and the manager the chief operations officer (COO).

From an elected official’s perspective, managers advise and recommend to boards. They also carry out the direction given them by the elected board. Those elected set policy and direct staff to implement the decisions.

Candidly, I’m not sure all managers would agree with that statement, but I think you can see the complexity in the relationship.

In addition to the professional requirements of the job, a positive chemistry needs to develop and be maintained between the manager and his employers (the town board) and the citizens, with all their varied interests, of the town. This is an essential ingredient to keeping things running smoothly.

The selection of our most recent town managers was done through a process that has served the town well, incorporating professional recruitment and screening, along with peer group, town staff, and board interviews. We had every expectation that “the right person” had been hired, but things simply “didn’t work out.”

As anyone who’s hired employees can attest, selection and hiring is far from an exact science.

Evaluating the situation required time, and your board took great pains in making a difficult but necessary decision. We wanted to get it right. Now, the task before the trustees, the staff, and the town as a whole is to embrace the change and move forward. The search for a manager is already under way.

We expect the process to take three to four months, depending on the pool of candidates available. If extra time is needed, the board will decide how the interim period will be handled, with one option being the hiring of a temporary manager.

We’ll cross that bridge when and if necessary.

A certain amount of patience is going to be required from all concerned, as the search goes forward. However, the citizens of Granby and our businesses and developers should be reassured that we are indeed blessed by the dedication, professionalism, competence, and good humor of the staff members who handle the day-to-day work of the town.

Deb, Sharon and Cindy; Julie and Elliot; Joel, Jan, Phillip, and Peter; Betsy; Scott, Rich and Doug, Jaben, and Lew; Bill, Jim, Jeff, Wayne, Bryan, and Krista; and Lois and Sarah deserve a lot of credit for their hard work and have a sincere vote of confidence and appreciation from the town board. You guys are tremendous. We know you’ll keep everything running smoothly during the transition.

On a final note, the board and I know that some are worried that the partnerships between the town and its development and business communities have been tossed aside. Nothing could be further from the truth, but we acknowledge that there have been some stresses and strains that will be addressed and solutions found, as we always have been able to do.

Growing a community takes a lot of good old-fashioned elbow grease and a willingness to roll up the sleeves and get to it. It’s like building a barn or fixing an engine, sooner or later you hit your thumb or strip a bolt. You get a little first aid and set about fixing the problem. At the end of the day, things will look and run better.

Your board and I are resolved to moving forward.


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