Back to the Drawing Board!

Cripple Creek Council Rejects  Top Finalists For Town Boss; Decides to Start New Search

Rick Langenberg

Cripple Creek elected leaders and officials have struck out in the latest pursuit for a permanent head boss, and are headed back to the batter’s box.

Or more specifically, they refused to swing at the latest pitches from the two finalists for the job. The council has rejected both of the lead candidates for the job, and have opted to start a new search.

As a result, Interim City Administrator Ray White will remain holding the reins of the city’s managerial operations, at least through September, and possibly longer.

At a recent council meeting, White almost appeared ready to hand over the management baton to either Douglas Hinkley or Fred Kaplan, the two finalists for the job, who partook in official person-to-person interviews with the council on July 7 and attended the regular meeting session. The council appeared poised to select one of these finalists and then start the process of crafting a final contract.

The main question circulating at the close of the July 7 session: When would the city’s new prospective boss take charge?

Both Hinkley and Kaplan were listed as the main finalists on the city’s website in late June. Both combined reportedly had 60-plus years in business experience and success with  military organizations, defense contractors and in working with the private and public sectors. Their biographies, though, were quite different from past finalists for the position in earlier searches.

According to White, the elected leaders concluded that “neither of the two finalists had any direct experience in city administration and the council felt it was best to re-start the search.”  Based on their biographies and other online portfolio’s, the finalists were not involved in the administration or management arena in any municipalities in the region or in Colorado.

White  also cited the fact that the city only had received 17 applications for the position.  This is less than a third than what the city had received the last time in conducted a search for a permanent city administrator.

In fact, in some past searches for the job 15 years ago, the city has featured more than 100 applicants.

According to some reports, several council members were not overly satisfied with any of the candidates. Another hurdle involves the process itself, as a new state law requires a public notice period for approximately two weeks for the top finalists for the job.

What’s Next?

The council and head management team now plans to conduct a new search.  And this time, the city may use a private contractor to help facilitate the process, according to White. This was a process the city did several years ago, with a consulting company narrowing the field, and then the council making the final decision.

White conceded that the difficulties the city is experiencing in attracting top candidates for the head administrator job  aren’t unique.  This is a problem many small cities in Colorado are now facing.

The city has experienced the same plight in securing a head fire department chief. Due to the lack of qualified candidates, the city decided to delay the selection process.

A number of municipalities in the region, including Manitou Springs, Monument, Green Mountain Falls and Woodland Park, have struggled in the past with selecting a top person to run the government on a full-time basis.

Still, the latest development adds a new curve ball for the city’s elected leaders as the selection process got previously delayed due the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Cripple Creek has operated without a permanent head boss since early January 2020, when it parted ways with Mark Campbell. Campbell won the selection process in the last go-around for this  job, but the council was quite divided over his pick.  He only served as the Cripple Creek city administrator for a little  more than a year.

White, a resident of the area with strong local ties, had served as an interim part-time administrator previously, and actually held the position as full-time administrator and was the city’s first heritage tourism director. He regained his role as interim administrator in the summer of 2020.

According to Mayor Milford Ashworth and other elected leaders, the city is looking for a permanent administrator who can also take a lead role in economic development pursuits, and in helping the city in addressing key community problems, such as attracting more workforce housing.