Golden residents met their future city manager this week, as the four finalists had public events with residents and business community members June 27-28.
The City Council is scheduled to interview the finalists during a June 30 executive session, and will likely announce its hire at a July 12 meeting, according to city staff.
The four finalists are:
- Heather Balser, Greeley's interim chief resiliency officer;
- Larry Dorr, Westminster's deputy city manager and chief financial officer;
- Carly Lorentz, Golden's interim city manager; and
- Scott Vargo, the county manager for Summit County;
Full biographies of each finalist is available at www.guidinggolden.com.
The new city manager will replace Jason Slowinski, who left Golden after seven years to join Colorado School of Mines.
As Golden’s chief executive, the city manager reports directly to City Council and is responsible for overseeing city staff, operations, programs and services.
On June 27, about 50 people attended a public meet-and-greet with the finalists at the Golden Community Center. The next morning, the Golden Chamber of Commerce hosted a more business-focused event at City Hall.
During both public events, each finalist gave an overview of their qualifications and goals, and then the four took turns answering residents’ questions, which ranged from handling tourist traffic on weekends to how to involve Colorado School of Mines students more in the city.
Attendees were invited to submit feedback on the finalists via online survey. To do so, visit surveymonkey.com/r/9W9G2HB.
Before joining Greeley, Balser worked for Louisville, Colorado. Starting in 1997, she “did just about every job in the city,” she described, and eventually became city manager.
She left Louisville in August 2021 for Greeley, where she focuses on homelessness and affordable housing issues.
Balser has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Denver. She’s also been married 27 years and has two children.
If she becomes Golden city manager, Balser said she’d bring her expertise in budgeting, revenue diversification, community planning, transportation and more to the job.
Overall, she was looking forward to helping Golden foster its strategic plan, engaging with the community, and building partnerships to get all the city’s projects completed.
Balser felt it’s important to understand what’s working well in the city already. She emphasized the need to “respect the past” while looking toward the future, adding, “There’s a balance there, and I enjoy working on both those things.”
Dorr joined Westminster as its deputy city manager in January 2020. Before that, he served as Lakewood’s finance director for 18 years. During his time in Lakewood, he described, the city collaborated with Golden on projects like the Foothills Animal Shelter.
Dorr now wants to bring his 20 years’ experience working for and collaborating with Jeffco municipalities to Golden.
At Westminster, his focus has been building on and achieving aspects of the city’s strategic plan. Among his other focuses, he listed: improving diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace; collaborating to develop a navigation center for Jeffco’s unhoused population; workplace retention and recruitment; and recreation amenities.
“Build on success; don’t get complacent,” he told the June 27 meet-and-greet attendees. “Continue to come and be a part of the community, as you have tonight. Golden has innovated in the past, and I think you’ll continue to innovate in the future.”
Lorentz said it’s been a privilege serving as Golden’s deputy city manager for the past four years. Before that, she served Wheat Ridge in a similar role and focused on the city’s budget process.
As one of her goals as Golden city manager, she said, would be building relationships with residents, businesses and local organizations to share ideas and implement solutions.
“What I’ve noticed in these last few months, as the (interim) city manager, I feel like I can make even more of an impact,” Lorentz continued. “ … I think it’s really important for our next city manager to be accessible.”
Lorentz’s other goals for the city include continuing to find grant funding for important community projects and ensuring the city was a destination employer.
Overall, Lorentz described herself as “a thoughtful, adaptable, dedicated leader” who has a lot of pride in and respect for Golden’s beauty and community.
Vargo worked for Summit County in various capacities since 1999. He’s been county manager for six years, overseeing about 500 employees across dozens of departments.
Vargo and his wife have raised their two children in Summit County, and are now looking to move closer to the Denver metro area.
He commented how he was drawn to Golden because it has much in common with Summit County: a myriad of outdoor recreation opportunities and an accompanying tourism base, engaged residents, a supportive business community, an emphasis on historical preservation, and a thriving arts and music culture.
As city manager, Vargo’s goal would be continuing Golden’s current successes by implementing the city’s strategic plan and working with stakeholders to remove any barriers. Overall, he said, he believes Golden is “a wonderful community” already, and he wants to build on that.
“As an organization and a community, (Golden has) to be able to try new things and take risks,” Vargo continued.