Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Marks reflects on tenure with city

Administrator says Ketchum is well-equipped for the future


By ERIC AVISSAR
Express Staff Writer

Express file photo Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks will leave his position on March 7 to start a new public-service job in Oregon.

    After serving five and a half years as the Ketchum city administrator, Gary Marks will leave his position on March 7 to become the new city administrator of Lebanon, Ore.
    Soon after he took his position in August 2008, Marks was soon forced to work alongside fellow city employees to drastically change the city’s operations in response to the economic recession.
    “When the real estate market fell apart a couple months after I was hired, there was panic,” Marks said this week. “Money for developments dried up, local-option-tax receipts plummeted. So, the landscape changed radically into triage and trying to maintain the delivery of city services amidst severe economic developments.”
    Marks said the circumstances were difficult in part because the city lost hundreds of thousands of dollars for developments during the recession, and LOT receipts fell about 33 percent. However, Marks said the toughest repercussions of the recession for him came on the personnel side, with the smaller budget forcing the city to lay off valued employees.
    “We had to lay off five people, and left some open positions unfilled,” Marks said. “The toughest part was laying off people. It was an awful ordeal for me. You know it has an impact both on the folks and the families when you let them go.”
    Marks said that based on the city’s spending before the recession, the city has since spent $9 million less than it would have had it continued on the same path. He added that the city’s priority at the time was to maintain the quality of as many services as possible, while looking to improve a few others wherever possible.
    In response to having fewer funds to work with, Marks said the city made a couple creative solutions in particular that really helped the city in the long term.
    “Contracting the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department to take over our police operations was a very successful move,” Marks said. “It felt like a very successful, seamless transition saving a lot of money. We were able to also expand community policing services to the area.”
    Additionally, Marks said the decision to contract the Idaho Department of Building Safety for building code services saved the city money and gave it a bigger pool of expertise.
    Marks said that he could not have accomplished anything as city administrator without the help of “a great professional team to work with,” and praised former Mayor Randy Hall for his work ethic to help the city recover economically.
    “Randy (Hall) and I worked very well together. He has a good heart, and loves this community. Whether you agreed with him or not, you could know in his heart he felt he was doing the right thing, and most of the time I felt he was.”
    Hall, who left office at the beginning of the year, was also grateful to work alongside Marks through the recession.
     “We’ve been lucky to have him,” Hall said. “He was the right guy for us at the right time. He helped us navigate through the toughest financial times we’ve had to deal with since the Great Depression. Also, he is very creative and smart, which allowed him to come up with very innovative solutions.”
    Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas said there is no timetable set for hiring a new city administrator. Marks said the new city administrator should be adept at handling complex issues because of the many different political points of view people hold in Ketchum.
    “There needs to be a greater diversification in the local economy so shoulder seasons don’t impact local businesses as much,” Marks said. “There needs to be strengthening of the economic base so people can afford the lifestyle we’re able to enjoy here.”





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