Friday, October 27, 2006

Learning the ropes at City Hall

New administrator says leaving chamber was bittersweet

Express Staff Writer

Hailey?s new city administrator, Jim Spinelli, is already two months into his new job with the city. Learning the ropes has been a rewarding challenge, Spinelli said Thursday. Photo by David N. Seelig

Former Hailey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Spinelli says he wouldn't have been too upset to hear that he'd been passed over for the position of Hailey city administrator in late August.

"I would have been very happy to come in second," Spinelli said during an interview Thursday. "It was bittersweet for me."

It seems Spinelli's various duties promoting Hailey businesses at the chamber were both highly rewarding and hard to let go of.

"I never looked at it as work," he said. "I want our businesses to prosper."

Well, the selection committee set up to search for a new Hailey city administrator didn't pass over Spinelli, and now two months in to his new job he couldn't be more pleased.

Spinelli said part of the satisfaction he has in his new employment comes from working more closely alongside a talented contingent of Hailey city employees. These are the same people he developed a relationship with when he was representing the chamber during public meetings, he said.

"I know all these people from the other side of the aisle," Spinelli said. "I'm very fortunate to work with such a good group of people."

In his day-to-day duties, Spinelli is now responsible for helping to maintain the efficiency of Hailey's eight separate departments. In a way, he's the intermediary between the city's elected officials and its various department heads.

For those department heads, having Spinelli on hand makes it easier for them to have someone to run ideas by or to get things approved in a more expeditious manner.

It's much easier to find him than Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant or the members of the City Council, all of whom have full-time responsibilities of their own aside from the city, Spinelli said.

"I'm more available," he said.

Being the person responsible for signing off on the decisions of department heads—decisions that are often far beyond the scope of his expertise—has been somewhat intimidating, Spinelli admitted.

It all comes down to trusting the experience of those department heads. "I have to totally rely on their technical expertise," he said.

Since he started at the city part-time on Aug. 28, and full-time on Sept. 15, Spinelli's hands have been full getting to know the way Hailey City Hall operates. Spinelli said that, fortunately, his plate wasn't too full when he came on because the position he stepped into hadn't been filled since the city's former city administrator, Jim Azumano, resigned in 2004.

"I'm getting a pretty good handle," he said.

Spinelli said he appreciates the more influential position he now has for shaping Hailey's future.

"I'm in a position to help make decisions," he said. "I can do this at a much higher level."

He also believes the Hailey Chamber of Commerce is in very capable hands under the new leadership of Julie Oxarango-Ingram. Oxarango-Ingram recently started her first official full day on the job at the chamber's executive director on Oct. 16.

Although a bit wistful for sure, Spinelli said Oxarango-Ingram will no doubt succeed in bringing her innovative ideas for the chamber's future into reality.

"I know she can," he said. "Julie has a wealth of experience."

Now, Spinelli looks forward to working with the chamber to help guide the city's path to the future.

"Now I can listen to Julie."

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