ALAMOSA — Alamosa city council last night agreed on the advertising and process to hire a new city manager and unanimously named Alamosa Police Chief Craig Dodd interim city manager.
Current City Manager Nathan Cherpeski, who has held the position since 2006, accepted the city manager position in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Councilors hope to find a suitable replacement by early spring.
From February 1 until a new city manager is hired, Chief Dodd will serve as interim city manager. He has been with the city since mid-2011. Previously he served as director of the Information Services Division in the Ft. Collins Police Department and has nearly 30 years in law enforcement. Dodd has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice administration and a master of science degree in organizational leadership from Columbia Southern University.
The council authorized a $500 per-pay-period salary increase for Dodd during the interim period.
Acknowledging how important all of the department heads are, the city councilors said they would count on them to maintain city services during the interim period.
“We have a lot of faith in all our department heads and a lot of faith in Chief Dodd,” Councilman Josef Lucero summed it up.
Public Works Director Don Koskelin has been serving as assistant city manager but will be retiring this year.
The city council hired KRW Associates, LLC for $9,800 to help with the new city manager search, and Fred Rainguet of KRW met with the council last night to review the process, find out what councilors want in the next city manager and fill in some of the blanks in the job advertisement that will likely go out next week.
The position will be posted on several governmental sites including the city’s web site and International City/County Management Association, Colorado Municipal League and Colorado City and County Management Association.
Resumes will be accepted through the consulting firm through February 15, and Rainguet will review all applications and make recommendations to the council on 4-6 finalists for the position, plus alternates.
He told the councilors last night that he would provide all of the resumes to them, however, so they could review any of them they wished.
He also stressed that the final decision of who would replace Cherpeski would be the council’s, not his.
“I don’t drive the hiring of the city manger,” he said. “It’s your choice.”
He said he believed he could work through this process and get a new city manager hired in 90-100 days.
Council gives input
Rainguet asked the councilors what issues are facing Alamosa and what city council’s priorities are for a new city manager, so he would know what to talk to potential job candidates about.
Councilman Charles Griego said the city has been working on economic development and job development, Cherpeski has helped Alamosa with this effort, and he wanted to see that continue with the next city manager.
Councilman Greg Gillaspie specifically mentioned one of the latest economic development efforts, which is to remove existing buildings and replace them with new retail space as part of the “Pink Elephant Project” downtown across from the depot.
Cherpeski said he would be leaving a list of items he has been working on. He said the city will have to deal with issues with the river levee and Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements. The city will also be redoing its comprehensive plan, he said, and upgrading financial software, something the new city manger needs to be aware of.
Councilman Rusty Johnson said the deer will be an ongoing issue. He said a city manager should be able to work with the local colleges, which are vital to Alamosa.
Griego said there will be projects the city manager must work with the county on, such as airport improvements. Lucero said the city manager must be able to work with other groups in the community as well, such as those involved in economic development. Councilman Leland Romero also mentioned Community Corrections as another group the city manager would need to work with.
Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers said it would be important to hire someone with strong intergovernmental relations. She said strong financial knowledge would also be important. She said it would also be important for the individual to treat the existing staff well and not micromanage them.
Other preferred qualities include personnel and technological expertise.
Lucero said, “I would like to see somebody young and hungry that’s going to get in there and work.”
Councilor Marcia Tuggle said the person coming to Alamosa would need to be able to adapt to living here where there might be fewer resources than a larger city and the climate might be harsher.
Cherpeski said it is important for the spouse to be on board as well. He said while he was being interviewed in Klamath Falls, his wife was taken on a tour of the town to sell her on it.
Tuggle said it is expected the new city manager and his/her family would live in Alamosa, and Cherpeski said the city charter requires the city manager to live in Alamosa. Tuggle said the new city manager should be aware of the cultural diversity of this area as well.
The councilors also discussed with Rainguet the specific requirements listed in the job advertisement and job description. They settled on a minimum of seven years experience in the field and a master’s degree, which is what the city’s current city manager job description specifies.
Rainguet suggested the council might want to advertise “master’s degree preferred” but not required, because he said the city would receive more applications if it was not a strict requirement.
The council discussed the master’s degree requirement at length but the majority of council ultimately went with the master’s degree as a requirement. Griego disagreed. He said many quality people might possess the skills necessary but not the master’s degree.
Rainguet said some people might be working on degrees but have not completed them, and they might be good candidates.
Cherpeski said the positions he had looked at all required a master’s degree, and the city council required it when he was hired. Gillaspie said the city had no lack of applicants when the master’s was required.
The mayor said she could go either way on the requirement but it seemed to be the consensus of council to require the advanced degree.
Romero said obtaining that advanced degree illustrates initiative and effort.
Councilor Tuggle said she has earned two master’s degrees, and the information she acquired while obtaining them was much more focused and specific to her career than her undergraduate work. The same would be true for someone in city management, she said.
The council also specified the salary range to be advertised for the new city manager, which will be $92,000-108,000, depending on qualifications, plus benefits. Rainguet said that is a reasonable price range for a city the size of Alamosa in Colorado.
The advertisement will speak to some of Alamosa’s strong points such as its proximity to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and mountains as well as its recreational opportunities and access to higher education through the local community college and university.
“A really good candidate will research this city even before they apply,” Rainguet said.
He said he believed Alamosa would get a good response to this advertisement, and applicants would probably show interest from all over the country.
Tuggle said she just wanted to make sure the city hired someone who valued Alamosa as much as the council does.