by Rick Langenberg:
The head administrative leader of the city of Cripple Creek for nearly five years is calling it quits, a scenario that will leave the town with yet another gap in its lineup of key managers.
Late last week, Ray White, who was originally hired in May 2008 as the city’s heritage tourism director, submitted a resignation letter and publicly announced plans to leave at the end of this week. Finance Director Paul Harris will now serve as the interim administrator, while the city council engages in a search for a new city hall boss.
The circumstances surrounding White’s departure are still under debate, with some reports of growing clashes between at least one council member and the head city administrator. “It could have been handled better,” said one council member, in regards to a recent dispute that reportedly dealt with the extension of the downtown improvement project (see related story). White was the only head administrator who served under the current group of elected leaders. He was appointed as the city’s interim administrator in Jan. 2010, during a period of much political turmoil, and then received the nod for the permanent slot as head city boss about five months later. By Cripple Creek standards, White recorded an impressive longevity record for a job that experienced a revolving door syndrome for a number of years, with the town sporting more than five different interim and head city administrators.
However, in an interview Monday, White referred to his resignation as a complete personal decision. “This was something I was contemplating for some time,” said White, who stated that he wanted to wait until the Bennett Avenue facelift project was nearly completed before stepping down. “This was a personal decision. I was retired when I took a job with the city and will be retiring when I leave,” added White, who previously served as a federal agent and spent time with the Division of Homeland Security prior to coming to the city.
White also noted that he had some health issues earlier this year and was on leave for an extended period.The city administrator says he is quite satisfied with his nearly five-year administrative reign. “I feel really good with what we have accomplished during the last several years with our limited revenue.” He mainly cites major infrastructure and transportation system improvements as the main highlights, along with establishing a lobbyist in Denver to represent the city on key legislative issues.
In addition, he believes steps have been implemented to run the city in a more professional and efficient manner. Just prior to taking over as interim city administrator, the Cripple Creek government was rocked by much tension between several council members and the staff, as part of a new changing of the guard. “There was a lot of tension,” admitted White. And despite recent complaints by some business operators, White stands 100 percent behind the $4.5 million Bennett Avenue downtown facelift that is nearing a conclusion stage. “A project like that is going to have long-term benefits,” said the administrator.
White admits the construction, especially during the last few weeks, has produced much frustration for city workers, business owners and visitors. Some critics have complained that the city administrator hasn’t communicated enough with business operators and casino managers in the process. As a result, they say they have lost considerable money in potential revenue during the peak of their season.
But White says his decision to step down wasn’t related in any way to the recent frustrations over the downtown construction and the related access problems along Bennett Avenue. “That (downtown construction) is always a convenient target for when things aren’t going very well,” said White, who noted that the project is right on track for an Oct. 17 completion date. And from a visitor/tourism standpoint, he said the amount of people frequenting such places as the Cripple Creek Heritage Center and the jail museum is on par with previous years.
As for his main regrets, the head administrator said he will miss working with a quality staff. “The city really has a good core group of people,” said White. Plus, he admits the economic climate in Cripple Creek has posed definite challenges. During his reign as city manager, the Cripple Creek gaming community suffered declining revenues, largely because of the frequent highway closures associated with the Waldo Canyon fire and the floods.
White, though, said the city was able to provide continued services with a much leaner staff. In addition, the city in the last few years has undergone many changes in key personnel for such positions as police chief, historic preservation/development director, marketing director/consultants, public works director and heritage tourism coordinator. With White’s departure, the city will have gone through at least six key department managers in the last few years.
Besides the selection of a new city administrator, the council must pick a new marketing director, a decision that will be made within the next few weeks, according to White. He said the city has received at least 40 applicants for the job. It’s still unsure how long the city will take to name a new head administrator. Until that time, Harris will retain his familiar hat as the city’s interim administrator. He has served this position several times in the last decade.