Fort Collins City Council elects Kelly DiMartino as new city manager

Fort Collins City Council has selected Kelly DiMartino as city manager.

The council broke the news on Tuesday at 10 p.m. to the almost empty town hall halls – and to all city employees who were watching FCTV at home. The end of the search for the city manager comes 10 weeks after council members decided to pause the search for reflection and continued observation of interim city manager DiMartino, who was one of five remaining finalists for the job.

The council spent about two and a half hours in executive session to conduct the mid-year performance reviews for DiMartino, Chief City Judge Jill Hueser and District Attorney Carrie Daggett. Another board meeting followed to discuss DiMartino and the search for city officials. The consultation lasted less than 20 minutes.

The council voted 7-0 to appoint DiMartino as city manager.

DiMartino has been with the city for 25 years and was an assistant city manager before becoming interim city manager. Since taking on that role in August, she has held several city leadership positions and restructured the city manager’s office while guiding the city through the ongoing pandemic.

“I can’t welcome you because you’ve been here for 25 years,” Mayor Jeni Arndt told DiMartino.

A tearful DiMartino thanked the council for their trust and support and said she looks forward to continuing to work with the organization.

After the council decided on March 29 to pause the search for city managers, “they gave me clear instructions that they wanted me to act like I was the city manager and go ahead and move things forward,” DiMartino said in a subsequent telephone interview The Election. “I really feel like they’ve given me the freedom to do that over the past three months. … I look forward to moving forward.”

More on the paused search:Fort Collins has 1 remaining City Manager finalist. So the search is not over yet

When she first became interim city manager, DiMartino wasn’t sure she wanted to do the job full-time. But in the role, “I had the opportunity to work more directly with the council and engage with the organization and the community in other ways,” she said, adding that she also got to lead an incredible team of city employees. “I found it was something I really enjoyed.”

Council members commended DiMartino’s leadership and his willingness to accept direction from the council after the search was suspended.

“You’ve done a great job, especially in these three months,” Mayor Emily Francis said. “I think the City Council gave a lot of direction and feedback. You have done an excellent job of accepting this feedback with grace and responding to the advice. I feel we are on a great path and I am more than happy to have you as our City Manager.”

Arndt added that she was “very optimistic about the future of the organization under Kelly’s excellent leadership.”

Councilor Kelly Ohlson described DiMartino as hardworking, compassionate, pragmatic, inclusive, motivational and upbeat.

“Kelly did a very competent and admirable job in the interim role, which is not easy,” Ohlson said. “…She also understands the importance of the City Council’s work plan and the two-year window in which we operate. Kelly also understands and respects the line between administering and governing.”

The apparent completion of the city manager search resolves a period of uncertainty over who would succeed longtime city manager Darin Atteberry. The council chose to suspend the search for up to three months after hours of deliberations and face-to-face interviews with five finalists for the post at the end of March. They said no clear winner emerged, although some have indicated they will be watching DiMartino’s performance closely.

The other four finalists withdrew their names over the following weeks, leaving DiMartino as the sole finalist. So far, however, it was unclear whether the council would stay with DiMartino, make further requests, or pause the search.

“Throughout the process, our only interest has been to ensure we make the right decision for the city,” Councilor Tricia Canonico said at the meeting. “Everything we did was in the best interests of Fort Collins. Choosing Kelly DiMartino as the next city manager is definitely in the best interest of our city, in my opinion.”

The next step is the contract negotiations with DiMartino. The council appointed Arndt and Francis to work with the recruiting team to develop an employment contract with DiMartino. The council must approve the agreement before DiMartino officially becomes city manager.

This story may be updated.

Jacy Marmaduke takes on the government’s responsibility for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support their work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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