It's a tough, thankless job. Being a City Administrator puts a target on your chest on Day One. This is particularly true in communities that are rapidly changing. The irony is that the growth that stresses a community the most is often accelerated by a City Admin who is doing his or her job.
This job is both to manage day to day BS, and also to oversee and maintain a macro vision for their community that transcends their detractor's and their supporter's bitch du jour (that's not an official description).
A City Admin is essentially a CEO, and by this definition the roll generally requires strong leadership and a purposeful style. Many of the great CEOs' of large companies have historically been controversial, regardless of their success—and often because of their style. Their job is not to be liked, but rather to get shit done. Do they bend or break rules? Probably. But, I'm a rule breaker, so what do I know? In non-elected, high-profile management positions if you sneeze in the wrong direction you've probably broken the law, and it's probably pissed someone off.
I have never met a City Admin that didn't have a target on their back. It's a transient profession. It's contentious as hell. You may be in the camp that dislikes Dara. If so, you might seek solace knowing that if you throw her out, chances are you'll get someone you dislike even more.
If you are new to town, or a part timer, challenge Dara on what she believes. She will tell you, and you may not like it. Trust me. But, mark my word, with Salida's changes entering warp speed, as soon as we replace a person who is raising their kids here, with some Career Administrator whose eye is on the next, bigger city to manage—that will be the day Salida becomes the Aspen so many love to hate.
As I look around Salida I do not like all the changes. But, having lived here for nearly twenty years this feeling is driven more by nostalgia than a dislike of the changes, and I like that we are weathering the insane growth with some style. It may look different than when Laura and I arrived with our babies (who have since graduated and moved on), but Salida is still funky. How can this be?
How can we be loaded with all these rich retirees with their fancy cars, yet maintain a distinct Salida vibe? I believe it is, in part, because our CEO is hyper local and she sincerely appreciates art, bikes, boats and beer. Too simple? Maybe. But, the authenticity of Salida's charm is fragile and it's not enough to manage the Salida brand like you would in Denver. Here, you have to know the roots—you have to drink some whiskey with the old timers and rip some single track. You have to dance your ass off at FIBArk, then volunteer too early for something that probably supports kids. I have not always agreed with Dara, but I know she "gets" Salida. If your CEO doesn't truly understand the culture, you've got bigger problems than bumpy roads.
The word on the street is that on Tuesday, May 17, at 6pm people will be filling Council chambers. Maybe you should find out why?