The Mono County Board of Supervisors approved a contract for new County Administrative Officer (CAO) Steve Barwick on Tuesday. Barwick will start work with the County on September 9 at an annual salary of $190,000 with benefits including a pension and medical care valued by the county at $109,046.
Barwick comes to Mono County from Aspen, Colorado, where he was City Manager for 19 years before being asked to resign by the Aspen City Council in January of this year.
On why council asked him to leave his position in Aspen, Barwick said, “Politics finally got to me there.”
The Aspen Times reported that Barwick’s departure from Aspen began when his Assistant City Manager, Barry Crook, created a controversy by calling a citizen board that oversees the local housing program “mother f—ing extortionists.”
Crook resigned shortly after his outburst, but Barwick was on vacation during the ordeal and so did not respond to the controversy quickly – or at least not as quickly as his critics would have liked. This lack of response was the first domino to fall. According to the Aspen Times, this issue coincided with a series of bad deals for the city and an election year, all leading to council’s request for Barwick’s resignation.
Here are some of the bad deals the Times listed on Barwick’s CV:
In 2007, Barwick gifted the Aspen Public Works Director housing for life in a city-owned property. He later apologized to the rest of his 280 staffers for the unique deal given to the public works director.
Also in 2007, the City of Aspen under Barwick’s management purchased a 4.74 acre parcel for $18.25 million only to later find out from an appraiser that it was worth $16.8 million, $1.45 million less than the town paid for it.
In 2014, the city realized that its parking system had been scammed to the tune of $600,000 over 5 years. People were using prepaid debit cards with no funds on them in the parking meters, and the meters were not recognizing that the cards were empty until the end of the day. Barwick reassigned his Parking Director, Tim Ware, to ice facilities supervisor after learning of the scam.
Barwick received a year’s severance at his $195,000 salary, along with 6 months paid health insurance and whatever sick time and vacation time he had accrued over his 19-year tenure.
Before taking over the Aspen City Manager role in 1999, Barwick was Assistant City Manager of Aspen for 6 years. Before that he was the Finance Director of Vail, Colorado for 9 years.
Barwick was born and raised in Napa County and said that, “The Sierras are my old stomping ground.” To be clear, he did say, “Sierras.”
As Ansel Adams once said, “The name Sierra is already a plural. To add an s is a linguistic, Californian, and mountaineering sin.”
*Editor’s note: I’m gonna give Mr. Barwick a little more leeway than Gorman on this one. After all, local Councilman Kirk Stapp oft refers to the Town he’s served for a quarter century as “Mammoth Lake.”
Barwick takes over for former CAO Leslie Chapman, who resigned in March saying that she had, “lost the passion necessary to excel.” Barwick said that he has not spoken with Chapman about her experience as CAO.
His first step as CAO, Barwick said, will be, “listening to the County Supervisors,” and asking, “What do they want me to be working on.”
He also hopes to get out into the community to find out what Mono County residents care about.
“They can expect to see me do my own little meet and greets,” Barwick said. “Go sit in a coffee shop somewhere and notify locals that I’m gonna be there and just come in and talk to me. Just so I can get to know people, what’s on their mind, what do they think the county might be able to do for them or should stop doing for them.”