City Council to Contract with Acting City Manager Mark Relph

By Don Bruns (Comments to Council on May  9, 2017)

Mayor Beckman and other council members’ excellent rationale for selecting Mark Relph as our new City Manager was presented at your April 25 study session. It was so solid and well reasoned, at least some of it bears repeating. He:

• Demonstrates professional integrity
• Has a good understanding of city manager and council roles
• Follows best practices, providing quality information to city staff
• Is comfortable and able to work with citizens having differing views
• Is experienced in regional operations with other entities beyond the city
• Knows who the players are and recognizes problems we face
• Exhibits exemplary conduct with council and even-handed treatment of all
• Has a welcome measure of humility and a willingness to admit mistakes
• Is approaching a year of grounding experience as acting City Manager
• Fits council’s candidate profile

A central question for many of us has been how to convince municipal officials (i.e., council, and its boards and commissions) to value what Littleton already has, rather than what others want us to become—especially outsiders who see us primarily as a place to build.

As one of my former colleagues said, “Wow, you chose a great place to live. Littleton has a wonderful suburban landscape: lots of tree-lined streets, its own distinctive architecture, and the look and feel of an authentic small-town neighborhood culture.”

Taking care of what we already have means resisting alluring attempts to change our uniqueness, what we really are. It also means valuing our distinctive character qualities so that we maintain that which sets us apart from the featureless urbanization crowding in.

Hints made at your last study session that Mr. Relph’s public works background might not be optimal for city management were troubling. Isn’t stewardship of what we already have precisely what is needed to avoid taking our eyes off of the sustainability target?

In the past year as Acting City Manager, Mr. Relph’s leadership skills have been made obvious, even to just plain citizens. Indeed he seems to be committed to move forward in restoring citizen confidence in our city’s administration. This is so very welcome.

Clearly he not only places a premium on listening to citizens to find out what they value, but he knows how to do it. Unless we follow through with such commitment, ensuring a sustainable future for the city that brought us here in the first place will be impossible.

I hope that council majority will act in the best interests of Littleton’s citizens—believing that confirmation of Mr. Relph as our new city manager will move us in the right direction.



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