Boulder’s elected officials on Tuesday authorized the start of a two-year pilot for a paid assistant to help council with their duties. The position will cost the city $87,500 annually, including salary and benefits, and report to City Manager Jane Brautigam.
Councilwoman Cindy Carlisle first proposed the idea at the beginning of the year. But she wasn’t thrilled with the way it turned out.
“This was not my idea at all,” she said during Tuesday’s brief discussion. She wanted each council member to have their own assistant. “This person is not only working for all of us, but also the city manager. Whether or not it’s an asset is to be the question.”
Individual assistants would also allow for more discretion, she argued, along with councilwomen Lisa Morzel and Mirabai Nagle.
“I don’t want anyone reading my emails,” Morzel said. “And we get confidential memos.”
“That’s my point,” Carlisle added.
Boulder’s charter does not allow for city employees to report directly to elected officials: “Neither council, its members, nor committees shall either dictate the appointment, retention or removal or direct or interfere with the work of any officer or employee under the city manager,” it reads.
The paid assistant will work at the behest of all council members, primarily fulfilling administrative duties such as “calendaring, travel and conference arrangements, maintaining contact lists, and assistance with email response (and) research inquiries,” according to staff notes on the pilot program. The assistant will also be able to help with special projects if a majority of council agrees. Quarterly surveys of council will assess the performance and usefulness of the assistant.
“The assistant to the council is intended to be an equally shared resource among the full council,” the memo to council reads. “As needed, the assistant may meet with individual council members. It is likely that some council members may request or require more support than others, but efforts will be made to provide support equitably to all council members if desired.”
The ideal candidate will have a master’s degree in public administration or a related field and be bilingual in English and Spanish.
Council voted 6-2 to adjust Boulder’s budget and pay for the assistant. Council members Aaron Brockett and Mary Young dissented. Councilman Bob Yates, though he ultimately voted for the measure, expressed doubts about the usefulness of such a position.
“I’m struggling with this a bit because we could use this person three hours a week or 30 hours a week,” he said, asking Brautigam if she had a plan for the assistant if council under-utilized him or her.
“We have a lot of work we have to do,” Brautigam answered. “We can use as much staff help as possible.”