Utilities Executive Director

City of Fort Collins, CO | Full-time

Apply

The Community

The City of Fort Collins sits nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains alongside the banks of the Cache la Poudre River. At 5,000 feet in elevation, residents enjoy a moderate, four-season climate, with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. With 174,800 residents, Fort Collins is Colorado’s fourth-largest city and spans 57 square miles. With the 20-year growth projection, the City of Fort Collins is expected to reach 255,000 residents.

The first people who hunted in this region arrived approximately 11,000 years ago, and Northern Colorado remains an integral part of the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations. European-American trappers and traders arrived by the early 1800s but rarely established permanent settlements. Gold and silver discoveries in the Colorado mountains in the mid-1800s and the prospect of land for farming and ranching attracted people from eastern cities and across the globe to the Colorado Territory, including what would become the town of Fort Collins. It began as an agricultural colony that emerged from its founding days as a military fort. The expansion included the sugar beet industry’s growth, which brought new residents whose descendants still live here today, including Mexican-American families from southern Colorado, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, as well as German families from Russia.

Since 1879, Fort Collins has been the home of the state’s land grant institution, Colorado State University, which currently enrolls 34,000 students. Along with the University, the city’s major high-tech and manufacturing companies and breweries attract new residents from all over the country and world. The community’s overall social diversity continues to grow.

There are abundant outdoor recreation opportunities available to the many residents who enjoy healthy lifestyles. The nearby Horsetooth Reservoir is a key attraction, as is the Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway. The Downtown District provides many venues for live music, shopping, dining, and nightlife within the city. Fort Collins is widely considered the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado. The city has a strong appreciation for arts, culture, and entertainment. Various national organizations and magazines recognize Fort Collins as one of the best places to live in the nation.

The Organization

The City of Fort Collins is a home rule city with a Council-Manager form of government. The City Council is comprised of six District Councilmembers who are elected for four-year terms and a Mayor who is elected at-large for a two-year term. All elected officials are non-partisan. The City Council appoints the City Manager, City Attorney, and the Chief Judge. The City Manager has overall responsibility for all other City employees. The City of Fort Collins directly provides a full slate of municipal services, including operating its own electric, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities. The City of Fort Collins, at the direction of the City Council and voters, is moving forward with building and implementing high-speed next-generation broadband to the entire community with expected buildout in 2022. Fire protection is provided by the Poudre Fire Authority (PFA). The City of Fort Collins operates with a biennial budget and provides funding for municipal operations, including approximately 2,500 employees.

Fort Collins aspires to provide world-class services to the community while cultivating an outstanding organizational culture for its employees. To achieve its vision, both internal and external services are data-informed and implemented according to organizational values. The City develops resiliency and sustainability through organization-wide systems and processes that ensure consistent employee work practices and alignment across service areas. The City places a high value on public input and strives to include community members as fellow problem solvers whenever possible. Residents can expect to receive exceptional service, can engage with decision-makers, provide input regarding the allocation of City resources, and have access to government information in a timely and transparent manner.

Fort Collins Utilities

Fort Collins Utilities is a community-owned utility that provides essential services for the City, including electric, water, wastewater, and stormwater. Additionally, the City recently launched the “Connexion” broadband service that is closely connected to Utilities through financial mechanisms, infrastructure, and customer service. The Connexion Executive Director is currently reporting directly to the City Manager and may be fully integrated into Utilities at the conclusion of the start-up/buildout phase.

The Utilities have a strong history of implementing best practices and are viewed as a national leader in the industry due to the City’s early adoption of continuous improvement, green energy, and sustainability. Fort Collins Utilities recognizes the importance of providing and maintaining core operations and engaging residential and commercial customers is a priority, with exceptional customer service being a core mission.

The Utilities generate total annual revenues close to $230 million, and the combined debt is approximately $145 million. Fort Collins Utilities’ Revenue Bonds are rated Aa2 and AA+ by Moody's and Standard & Poor’s respectively. The Utilities transfer approximately 6% of gross revenue to the General Fund annually, representing about 10% of the City’s General Fund budget. Fort Collins Utilities has the second largest municipal electric system in Colorado and comprises:

  • 448 employees
  • 78,000 electric customers within city limits (about 45 square miles)
  • 35,000 retail water customers
  • 35,000 wastewater customers
  • 72,000 stormwater customers
  • There are several water districts and one sanitation district within the city limits that are managed privately.

Fort Collins Utilities’ wholesale electricity provider is Platte River Power Authority (PRPA), a joint power agency that plans, finances, acquires, constructs, operates, and maintains generation and transmission facilities for the four owner cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, and Estes Park. Power sources include federal hydropower delivered by Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the coal-fired Rawhide Energy Station, four natural gas-fired combustion turbines at the Rawhide site, a share of the coal-fired Yampa Project near Craig, CO, an increasing quantity and variety of renewable energy sources, and purchases from the wholesale electricity market in the region. Platte River continues its work to shut down the coal-fired power source to be carbon free in the future.

Electric system facilities include seven distribution substations and 2,000 miles of distribution cable with 99.8% of the distribution system underground. The electric utility is heavily involved in the buildout of the broadband fiber network. Proofing and sharing of conduit already have and will continue to result in longstanding collaboration regarding outages, maintenance, repair, and cross-training of staff.

Fort Collins Utilities manages its own raw water supplies, treatment facility, and distribution system. The treatment facility has a peak capacity of 87 MGD.  A proposed $150 million Halligan Reservoir project will expand the reservoir from 6,400 acre-feet to 40,000 acre-feet for drought protection.

Collection and treatment of wastewater occur at two treatment facilities with a combined capacity of 29 MGD. The utility also manages a 26,000-acre ranch for bio-solids reclamation.

The stormwater utility is responsible for capital construction, operation, and maintenance of all stormwater facilities in the city. Stormwater jointly owns several properties with the City’s Natural Areas Program. The properties are managed for dual benefits, both natural areas protection and stormwater detention and retention. 

The City of Fort Collins has an Energy Board and a Water Commission that advise the City Council on policy matters pertaining to the municipal utilities systems. The Water Commission acts in a quasi-judicial manner to hear floodplain variance requests.

As a bridge to the Citywide Strategic Plan, the Utilities 2021 Strategic Plan has identified 6 Strategic Goals: Adaptive Workforce, Reliable and Resilient Infrastructure, Committed to Serving Customers, Responsible Financial Stewardship, Innovative Operations, and Sustainable Service Delivery.

The Opportunity

The Utilities Executive Director is responsible for providing strategic leadership over the entire utility portfolio, including electric, water, wastewater, stormwater, and involvement in the fiber broadband rollout. Directing all activities within the respective utilities departments, the new Executive Director is responsible for systems reliability, safety, and cost-effective operations of the Fort Collins Utilities. As an integral member of the City’s Executive Leadership Team, the Utilities Executive Director collaborates to develop, convey, execute, and support the City’s business plan and vision.

The Executive Director prepares short and long-range strategies and plans, and the Fort Collins Utilities annual budget based on overall City goals and growth objectives. In addition, the Executive Director monitors and encourages the culture of Utilities to match and support the City’s mission, vision, and values, including the City’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Importantly, the Utilities Executive Director promotes communication and adequate information flow throughout the organization. The Executive Director is responsible for continuous improvement of the Utilities portfolio, routinely evaluates overall operations and service levels, and provides regular reports to City leadership.

The Utilities Executive Director fosters and maintains strong relationships with City Council, City leadership, customers, industry partners, and other key stakeholders. With a clear vision and collaborative style, the Executive Director leads and supports a diverse and talented staff of 448 employees. This position directly manages four Deputy Directors responsible for Customer Connections, Water Resource and Treatment Operations, Water Engineering and Field Services Operations, Light & Power Operations, and the Director of Strategic Financial Planning and Operations.

Identified Priorities

  • Create a shared vision. Identify ambitious goals and collaborate to develop a long-term strategic vision for the future of Fort Collins Utilities. Create clear outcomes, prioritize initiatives, and effectively communicate.
  • Continue to bring all Utilities together and execute the One Utilities Model, including the continued partnership with Broadband. Build a trusting culture, be intentional about integration and collaboration across the organization, and help staff recognize the interdependencies throughout Utilities to effectively execute on projects, initiatives, strategy, and day-to-day work.
  • Modernize our critical infrastructure, investments, and technology to ensure sustainable service delivery now and into the future. Initiatives may include but are not limited to distributed energy strategies, regional water strategies, expansion of Halligan Reservoir, alignment with Our Climate Future, accelerated environmental programs, replacement of linear assets, and asset management investments. 
  • Collaborate with Broadband leadership to standup a new billing system. Plan and prepare for a future Utilities wide billing system replacement.
  • Strengthen integration outside of Utilities with other City departments and industry partners. Continue to develop and maintain strategic relationships and partnerships that align with the City’s climate, sustainability, resiliency, and energy goals. 
  • Actively champion and support the ongoing efforts to lead with equity in City processes. Collaborate with colleagues and the community to ensure our actions equitably promote, protect, and enhance a healthy, reliable, sustainable, and resilient environment.

The Successful Candidate

The Utilities Executive Director is a strategic systems thinker who possesses strong executive leadership skills necessary for managing a large, complex environment. As a visionary leader, the successful candidate brings a fresh yet experienced voice and perspective to Fort Collins Utilities. With a successful track record of producing results-oriented outcomes, the ideal candidate is excited by the opportunity to lead the Utilities into the future.

The Executive Director embodies Fort Collins’ core values embracing the City’s commitment to equity and inclusion and supporting their triple-bottom-line approach by assessing economic, environmental, and social impacts to drive decisions. The successful candidate values change and transformation and effectively balances the dynamic evolution of the community with the changing landscape of the utilities industry. The Executive Director is an effective communicator and active listener who values the diversity of thought and experiences of others to deliver solutions and achieve desired results. Listening to, balancing, and respecting a variety of views during the decision-making process is essential.

The Utilities Executive Director has a strong business mindset coupled with the entrepreneurial approach and industry leadership needed to understand the complexity of the diverse Utilities portfolio. With a proven ability to see the interdependencies between all departments, the successful candidate brings their own set of diverse experiences that add value and perspective while complementing and supporting a highly effective and engaged staff. The Executive Director is a forward-thinking leader that leverages new and innovative approaches and best practices to ensure safe, secure, reliable, and resilient utility services for the community.

The Executive Director is recognized as a highly effective leader who genuinely encourages and supports collaboration and employs a leadership style that invites participation. Importantly, the Director leads and empowers staff while promoting a forward-thinking, customer-driven culture that embraces change for the better. It is essential that the Utilities Executive Director thoughtfully identify opportunities and implement changes that support an organizational culture built on trust and mutual respect. The ideal candidate effectively leverages the team’s talents to ensure Fort Collins Utilities continues to provide safe, sustainable delivery of high-quality services. 

Considered a trusted partner with deep political acumen, the Utilities Executive Director serves as a liaison between the Utilities, the organization, the community, and City Leadership. The Executive Director is a responsive and transparent communicator and enjoys representing the City at all times. A humble yet confident leader, the successful candidate understands the importance of building community engagement and partners with others to ensure progress towards a shared vision, utility reliability into the future, and the City’s climate action goals.

Total Compensation

The City of Fort Collins offers a competitive comprehensive benefits package, including a market competitive hiring range of $240,000 – $250,000. Other benefits include medical, dental, vision, wellness program, life, and short- and long-term disability insurance. Additionally, the City of Fort Collins offers other benefits, including 401(a) and a 457 deferred compensation plan with an employer contribution, optional Health Savings Account, Flexible Spending Accounts, and relocation assistance for the successful out of area finalist.

Residency

As the Director of a City Service Area, the Utilities Executive Director must live within the Fort Collins Urban Growth Area during their tenure in office under Article IV, Section 3 of the City Charter. This requires the incumbent to reside at the time of appointment and throughout employment in this classification within five (5) miles of the City limits as measured by a straight line connecting the parcel of property upon which the residence is situated to the nearest boundary line of the City. City limits and the Urban Growth Area /Growth Management Area can be found on FCMaps.

Qualifications

The successful candidate has progressively responsible experience in a utility setting with at least ten years in a senior or executive leadership role. Previous experience leading and managing in a complex environment is essential. Strong business acumen, including financial expertise, is required, with prior experience in portfolio management highly desired. Experience with or understanding of 24x7x365 operations is preferred. With a fresh perspective on the utilities industry, the candidate must value change and transformation and believes in process improvement. Measurable accomplishments developing and implementing energy and water efficiency, conservation, or sustainability policies and programs is helpful.

A bachelor’s degree is required, with a master’s degree preferred. An equivalent combination of experience and education that enable success as the Utilities Executive Director will be considered.

Studies have shown that women and people of color are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they can perform every job description task. We are most interested in finding the best candidate for the job, and that candidate may come from a less traditional background. The City may consider an equivalent combination of knowledge, skills, education, and experience to meet minimum qualifications. If you are interested in applying, we encourage you to think broadly about your background and skill set for the role.

How to Apply

The City of Fort Collins is deeply committed to high-quality public service and cultivating an outstanding culture for its employees. As a high-performing government, Fort Collins attracts and employs diverse and competitive talent, retains its workforce through development and growth opportunities, and promotes intelligent risk-taking to address increasingly complex challenges.

Applications will be accepted electronically. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Open until filled with first review of applications November 1, 2021.

Questions

Heather Gantz | Manager, Executive Search | hgantz@raftelis.com

The City of Fort Collins is an Equal Opportunity Employer and values diversity at all levels of its workforce. Applicants selected as finalists for this position will be subject to a criminal history/credit/ driver’s license check prior to the interview. Under the Colorado Open Records Act, information from your application or resume may be subject to public disclosure.

Download Recruitment Brochure