Three Finalists Meet With Community Leaders
The search for a head, permanent city boss in Cripple Creek, a pursuit that has already taken a long and windy road, may finally reach a conclusion.
A final administrative touchdown may be imminent, but is contingent on background checks, contract negotiations and more importantly, council opinions.
Last week, the three finalists for the position– Dicran Keuroglian, Lisa Parnell-Rowe and Frank Salvato–were introduced to the public at an informal meet and greet at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. City officials hope to have a new administrator on board within the next few months. Formal, behind-closed door interviews were held with the job candidates on Friday, as the finalists got a chance to tour the area
The city has gone two-plus years without a full-time city administrator. Since July 2020, this role has been filled on an interim basis by Ray White, who previously served as the permanent city administrator and once headed up the town’s heritage tourism department.
The search for a head boss got delayed with the advent of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the subsequent closure of the casinos for three months and related financial woes.
Now, that process could be coming to an end, with the help of the KRW search firm, which headed the latest search effort. “It has been a long road,’ admitted Mayor Pro Tem Tom Litherland. Mark Collins, a representative of KRW, echoed similar sentiments, and contended that search efforts for top government administrators is much more difficult than previous years. He said normally many scenic Colorado towns like Cripple Creek often attract dozens of applicants from contenders across the country.
That’s not the case anymore, with major resort towns, such as Telluride, struggling to land a top manager.
In the latest national search, the process yielded close to 25 applicants, with the initial field narrowed down to six, through the research and initial contacts done by KRW. The council then slimmed the field down to the final three, who were invited to interviews and chances to get to know the community, the staff and local residents.
At last week’s meet and greet, the administrative finalists all made brief comments. All three relished the opportunity and lauded the scenic beauty of the region. In addition, they mostly cited the same key areas of concern with economic development, community involvement and affordable housing.
But they all sported vastly different backgrounds. However, all three have current or past ties with Colorado communities. Keuroglian currently serves as the administrative assistant for Brush, Colorado, a position has held for several years. He has been involved in developing some of the town’s main emergency-related plans.
He actually hails from Augusta, Georgia and has eight years of experience working indirectly with local government serving as an Executive Director and Founder of City Hope Alliance in Augusta. Keuroglian also a member of the International City/County Management Association. He holds dual Master’s degrees; one being a Master of Public Administration with a City Management Track and a Certificate in Urban Planning and Community Development from Augusta University, with the other being a Master of Arts in Theological Studies with a Community Development Track from Erskine Theological Seminary.
In his comments at the meet and greet, Keuroglian cited affordable housing developments as one of his key specialties, along with his ability to work with volunteers and adjust to different community mind sets. He quipped that he knew absolutely nothing about agriculture, prior to taking a lead administrative role in Brush, but was able to hit the ground running and “learn to become an insider.”
Parnell-Rowe, who previously worked in the planning department of the city of Woodland Park, is the director of development services for Hastings, Nebraska. She also performed such government roles as clerk/treasurer and did much work in the defense contractor arena in Colorado Springs and with other private companies.
She holds a Master of Public Administration with specialization in Community Development and Urban Planning from University of Nebraska.
Parnell-Rowe made a pitch for community engagement, and said she really wanted to learn more about the main issues residents are concerned about. “We need to realize who we are working for,” said Parnell-Rowe. “We are making a decision about you.”
Parnell-Rowe made it clear that she wants to return to Colorado, and sees this as a good opportunity.
Salvato, meanwhile, sports a slew of previous city administrative stints in a number of towns in Texas. Altogether, he has 37 years of local government experience in Texas, with such roles as city manager, assistant city manager, building official, fire marshal and code and health inspector. He currently owns property in Woodland Park, and has been retired for several years.
“I enjoy making a difference,” said Salvato. He cited a variety of challenges he faced in Texas from overseeing a major arson investigation to overhauling zoning and planning regulations, to grappling with annexation policies.
He holds a Master of Arts with specialization in Public Administration and Political Science.
The final decision rests solely with the city council. It is not set in stone that any of the applicants will be picked or a final deal will occur.
On the upside, time is on the side of Cripple Creek, as the current contract with White is not set to expire for four months This deal has already been extended several times. White once quipped that the nickname for the KRW search firm and the city administrator hiring process is: “Keep Ray Working.”