For a sixth time in two years, the Town of Purcellville could soon find itself searching for a new town manager.
Purcellville Town Manager David Mekarski is one of four finalists for a job as town manager in Vail, CO. That seat was vacated in April when Greg Clifton resigned after 18 months in the post.
Mekarski said that while he was “not actively looking” for a new job, the opportunity arose when he answered a recruitment invite and recognized that the position “really compliments [his] knowledge, skills and experiences over the last three decades.”
Aside from Mekarski, the other finalists for the Vail town manager position areTobin Follenweider, who currentlyserves as the deputy executive director for the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration;Anthony O’Rourke, who most recently served as the city administrator for Canon City, CO; andScott Robson, who currently serves as the executive director of the Civic Center Park Conservancy in Denver.
According to a statement from the Town of Vail, the Town Council selected the four finalists after an initial screening of 73 applicants. The four are now set to visit the townfor a series of interviews next week, Sept. 16-17.
Following the interviews and a review of community and staff input, the Vail Town Council will convene in a closed session to determine the next steps.
Mekarski said that the town’s leaders have not specified a timeline for the hiring process, but that it appears they are “in a position to make a decision from the four candidates after next week’s interviews.”
He said that while commenting on whether he would take the position is premature at the moment, he is required to give the Town of Purcellville 60 days’ notice of his departure, which should give the town enough time to consider its options for filling the town manager role.
He said that if he were to take the job in Vail, he would work with the town to facilitate a “healthy and positive transition” to the next town manager and that he’s poised to provide the Town Council with options should he end up leaving town in the coming months. “I absolutely would be committed to doing that. That’s first and foremost,” he said.
Mekarski, who has been in Purcellville for 18 months, said what caught his eye on the job posting was that Vail is not only searching for an individual who has strong strategic economic development skills, but also someone who has experience with environmental management and sustainability—experience he said matches what he did for the first 15 years of his career working to manage 260 square miles of swampland in Louisiana and to establish woodland and wetland ordinances in Michigan.
“That really attracted me,” he said. “So, I put my hat in the ring.”
The Purcellville Town Council appointed Mekarski as town manager from a pool of 29 candidates in March 2018, following a period of 10 months in which the town saw four individuals in the role.
In May 2017,Rob Lohr retired, which prompted the Town Council to unanimously appoint then-Public Works Director Alex Vanegas as the interim town manager. When Vanegas was placed on administrative leave in November 2017, pending an investigation into reports of misconduct, Administration Director Hooper McCann took over for three weeks. John Anzivino, asenior vice president at the Waters & Company executive recruitment company, washired shortly thereafter and led the town from mid-December 2017 through mid-April 2018.
In his year and a half leading town staff, Mekarski—who came to Purcellvillefollowing 12 years working as the village administrator of Olympia Fields, IL and previously as the city manager of Vero Beach, FL—led the town through multiple projects, negotiations and mishaps.
He said his greatest contributions to the town came in the first few months after he was hired, in which he helped to lead the town out of “essentially a cultural crisis” and build a “foundation of trust” following the “aberrant behavior and disfunction in 2017”—referring to the conduct of multiple staffers that led to numerous investigations and the firing of Vanegas.
He said the town staff “top to bottom is now cohesive.”
“I truly feel that we’re much stronger,” he said.
FollowingThe Novak Consulting Group’s completion of an operational audit of the town’s government structure for $69,800 that wrapped up in December 2018, Mekarski in March this year presented the Town Council with a staff-compiled list with proposed ways of implementing the firm’s 48 recommendations to improve town policies, procedures, staffing levels and management practices across nearly all departments.
Mekarski said he and town staff have since identifiedmore than 165 town projects and that they are working to use the recommendations to develop a top-10 list to present to the council.
In August 2018, Shaun Alexander Enterprises, run by the former NFL running back and which the town had hired tomanage day-to-day operations at Fireman’s Field, informed the town that Alexander would terminate his contract early and cease management of the complex. After weeks of negotiations, Mekarski and Town Attorney Sally Hankins presented the Town Council with a recommendation to eliminate Alexander’s responsibility to maintain the athletic fields and to reduce his monthly rent payments from $10,000 to $4,000—a recommendation the council voted to approve.
Mekarski and his staff then worked to finalize a lease agreement between the town and the county Board of Supervisors for the county’s Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department to maintain and operate the complex’s athletic fields. That six-month contract was approved in October 2018, was extended through July 2019 and again extended to run through the end of this year.
Mekarski this Tuesday presented the Town Council with a budget amendment proposing to transfermoney from the town’s recreation fund reserves to its capital budget for a five-year capital improvement and capital maintenance plan for the Fireman’s Field complex, which the town will use when asking the county to maintain the fields in the long-term. “We’re humbly asking for that support,” he said.
Mekarski said that if he’s hired in Vail, he would be working there to increase collaboration between the town and the community and to find options for affordable and deed-restricted housing for the area’s workforce that is largely employed by Vail’s resort.
“There are a host of evaluations and personal decisions I have to make [when considering a potential job offer],” he said. “I love this community, I truly enjoy working with the entire team—it’s one of the most hardworking, dedicated teams that I’ve ever had an opportunity to work with.”