Finalists for the Durango city manager position took a citywide tour this week, and both left excited and impressed by what the town has to offer.
Durango has been in the process of hiring a new city manager since the city ended its contract with former manager Ron LeBlanc in a mutual agreement in September 2019. Since then, city councilors have identified two finalists for the position, Jose Madrigal and Kevin Knutson. The two candidates took a whirlwind tour of city facilities, neighborhoods and hot-topic sites to get to know Durango.
“Durango, it’s a beautiful city. Very progressive,” said Madrigal, who is the interim solid waste services director in Irving, Texas. “There’s just a lot of great things that are happening here.”
“We were really charmed with the community,” said Knutson, vice president of planning and performance solutions with Envisio Solutions Inc., based in British Columbia, Canada.
The candidates visited city staff members and took tours with City Council members to see what Durango has to offer – visiting Three Springs, Lake Nighthorse and local businesses. Both left feeling impressed with the amenities offered in Durango, particularly considering its population size, they said.
The competition is fierce – both indicated they would take the position if the city offered it to them.
“It wasn’t really an interview situation because they’ve had some of that,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kim Baxter. “It was more to make sure they knew what Durango was like and this was the place they would love to call home.”
Interim City Manager Amber Blake applied for the position the same day the two finalists were announced. City councilors are determining whether any other candidate will be added to the finalist list. They plan to provide a public update during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Any new candidate will have to follow the same interview process as the current finalists.
It is standard operating procedure to keep the job application open, Baxter said. It helps communities consider new candidates without having to restart the hiring process, which must comply with certain statutory timeline requirements.
“We want the best outcome for the city. If the greatest manager in the world applied tomorrow and I closed the application today, then that’s not the best outcome,” said Councilor Chris Bettin.
City councilors said they were looking for candidates who can rebuild trust with the community and who have the expertise to rebuild internal city operational systems that need updating, particularly concerning finances. It is a high priority as city officials address the 17-year fraud allegations against former finance director Julie Brown.
“We have to have someone who has the ability to make major changes to the budget process, high-level financial reporting and fiscal discipline at all levels,” said Councilor Melissa Youssef.
The city also plans to schedule video conference meetings between the finalists and stakeholder groups, such as the Durango Business Improvement District and the Durango Chamber of Commerce and community members.
“These two finalists, which council unanimously agreed to invite to Durango, are exceptionally qualified,” said Councilor Barbara Noseworthy.