Should Vail’s search for a new town manager stay within the Vail Valley? | VailDaily.com

Should Vail’s search for a new town manager stay within the Vail Valley?

Town officials are being tight-lipped about Greg Clifton's departure

Greg Clifton
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About the job:

  • The Vail town manager is in charge of all town departments. That person hires — and can fire — department heads.
  • The Vail Town Council can hire and fire only three people: the town manager, town attorney and town judge.
  • The town provides housing and a vehicle for the town manager.
  • Former manager Greg Clifton’s most recent salary was $183,750 per year.

VAIL — When the top administrator for any local government leaves, there’s usually a lot more “why?” than “because” when seeking reasons. That’s the case right now in Vail.

Former Vail Town Manager Greg Clifton announced his resignation Wednesday, effective immediately. Assistant Town Manager Patty McKenny will serve in the top job until a replacement is found.

Town officials are being tight-lipped about Clifton’s departure, and not much was revealed in an email he sent Wednesday to town staff. After expressing his affection for the town’s organization and community, he wrote, “… In my profession, there is constant movement, and at times, things move quickly. This is one of those times!”

Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said the Clifton’s resignation was “sudden.” When council member Travis Coggin was asked if the move surprised him, he answered that it did.

The move came quickly enough that council members have yet to discuss how they plan to replace Clifton.

“We’ll assess that the next time we get together” at the Tuesday regular meeting, Coggin said.

In a Thursday phone conversation, Chapin echoed the language of a Wednesday press release that called Clifton’s resignation “amicable,” adding that anything the council had formerly approved in Clifton’s employment contract remains valid.

Priorities for next town manager

With the town about to launch its second manager search since December 2016, a couple of residents weighed in on what they’d like the search to look like.

Resident Bob Armour was on the search committees for Vail’s last two managers — the 2003 group that hired former manager Stan Zemler and the group that in 2017 hired Clifton.

Armour said the next search needs to seek out someone with experience in mountain communities. Both Zemler and Clifton had that experience.

“There’s a different dynamic here,” Armour said, adding that he’d like to serve on the next search committee if possible.

Steve Lindstrom, the chairman of the Vail Local Housing Authority, said it might be time to take a slightly different approach to finding the town’s next manager than the two nationwide searches in 2017 that found Clifton.

“Maybe it’s time to look within our own valley,” Lindstrom said, citing Eagle County Schools’ recent selection of longtime employee Phil Qualman as the district’s new superintendent.

“Maybe it’s not somebody who’s in government, someone who gets what our valley’s about,” he added. “There’s a lot of talent in this valley, and there may be an opportunity there.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.