Aspen city administrators are in the process of recruiting six department heads, which is proving difficult due to housing and labor shortages.
The exodus of so many directors leaving office is the result of retirements and resignations in recent months.
It takes leadership in IT, golf and building, recreation, child care and police departments.
Deputy city manager Diane Foster said the city government is close to hiring a manager for the golf and IT departments, with interviews for finalists scheduled for this week.
Like most local employers, the city struggles to find candidates willing to relocate and pay exorbitant housing costs in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Foster said that of the eight people interviewed for the position of golf manager, two dropped out because of housing.
The question is one of the first topics of discussion in the interview process.
“Quite naturally, we’re talking to every housing candidate now,” Foster said. “We need to have these conversations.”
The city has nearly 60 housing units for municipal workers, and most of them are occupied by current employees.
“There are times when we have interim housing available,” Foster said, noting that a recently hired housing policy analyst for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority will be living in an apartment in the Marolt. Ranch, but only until January as it is seasonal and set aside. for employees of Aspen Skiing Co.
The city is holding an open housing unit for the future IT director, Foster said.
“We decide (through politics) who gets temporary or permanent housing opportunities based on position,” she said. “The cops are an extremely high priority.”
There is no housing available for the future Golf Director or Director of Kids First, the latter being a department that operates the city’s taxpayer-funded child care program.
This may change depending on the timing of hires, and there may be temporary accommodation available, which is usually six months.
“If you can give people a head start, that’s really helpful,” Foster said.
City administrators are not only interviewing finalists for IT and golf positions this week, but also conducting screening interviews for candidates for a director of recreation, who oversees the Aspen recreation center and recreation programs. .
Two of the most important shoes to fill are those of Kids First Director Shirley Ritter and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, both of whom recently announced their retirement after decades on the job.
The city plans to hire a recruiter to find the next police chief and will review proposals from companies this week, according to Alissa Farrell, the city’s director of administrative services.
The city has not finalized its plan to recruit the director of Kids First but hopes to do so in the coming weeks.
City officials hope to have someone hired for Kids First by the fall and Pryor’s replacement in place by the time he steps down in December.
Pre-selection interviews have been completed for the post of building manager, occupied for decades by Stephen Kanipe. The finalists will be determined shortly, according to Courtney DeVito, the city’s director of human resources.
There have been other moves within departments over the past two years, with some long-serving employees retiring, and the city has had to pivot to fill those voids.
“It’s all about workforce planning,” Farrell said. “It doesn’t even have to be in the same department, you’re looking for citywide skills and transferring staff to other departments. …
“We continue to examine the legacy of these long-serving administrators and their accomplishments, then where do we move forward and how do we make improvements and improvements for the community and for the good of the organization? “
The city recently restructured parking and transportation services as its two managers left last year, promoting from within and changing job responsibilities.
“There was an opportunity to reevaluate and look at some synergies between departments,” Farrell said.
Foster said it made sense for parking and transportation services to be combined.
“It was really intentional that these were areas that should be aligned or coordinated,” she said.
Foster, who joined the organization in 2020, had time to fill vacancies with the abrupt resignations of Wheeler Opera House and APCHA directors just months before and after taking office.
It took a year to fill these positions with the help of recruitment firms, and current staff and Foster had to step in to do the work and continue the programs in these departments during the vacuum.
Foster also had, within months of being hired, to deal with the retirement of Jeff Woods, the longtime director of parks and recreation, who was occupied by Austin Weiss, the former director of parks and spaces. open to the city.
Foster said finding talent within the organization is key.
“People development is a big thing for me,” she said. “Private sector companies that make things spend about 30% of their operating budget on people, and organizations like local government, 80% of our operating costs are people.”