Durango City Council on Thursday announced two finalists in its months-long search for a new city manager.
And in a bit of a twist, Interim City Manager Amber Blake announced Thursday she has tossed her hat into the ring for the top city position. One other city employee also applied for the job, but City Council has not identified him.
The city received a few late applications, prompting City Council to keep the application process open, even though it has named two finalists.
The two finalists were identified as Kevin Knutson, vice president of planning and performance solutions at software platform Envisio, and Jose Madrigal, former deputy city manager of McKinney, Texas.
Knutson lives in British Columbia, but is a U.S. citizen. He was formerly assistant city manager and interim city manager of Reno, Nevada, a city with a population of more than 250,000.
Madrigal works as interim director of solid waste services in the city of Irving, Texas.
Consultant David Krings, who is working with City Council on the hiring process, said both candidates are willing to move to Durango.
“There is some urgency,” said Councilor Barbara Noseworthy. Both Knutson and Madrigal are under consideration for other positions.
Another candidate was unable to interview until July 17, which Noseworthy said shows less interest and willingness compared with other candidates under consideration.
Blake, who has been serving as interim city manager for nine months, recused herself from Thursday’s special City Council meeting, saying she submitted a formal application Wednesday.
Blake is expected to go through the same formal hiring process that other candidates have faced.
“The end game is to get the best candidate in this position, whoever that may be,” said Councilor Chris Bettin.
Councilor Melissa Youssef said the city must be “very careful” about how it handles Blake’s situation.
City Council has been looking for a city manager since late last year.
Former City Manager Ron LeBlanc, who served in the position for nearly 12 years, announced in August 2019 that he planned to retire in early 2020. But City Council struck a deal in September to end his contract early. LeBlanc faced criticism from some residents and council members for his attitude and tense working relationships.
“I think it goes without saying that the past four months, there’s been a significant amount of conflict between staff and council,” Youssef said in August 2019 after LeBlanc announced his retirement. “This is an opportunity to look forward to the future in a positive way.”
City Council is working through how the rest of the interview process will play out, though finalists will come to Durango for an in-person visit.
“Any other candidates will go through the same process, no matter who they are,” said Councilor Kim Baxter.