After a nearly four-month-long search, Littleton City Council has named its next city manager. Jim Becklenberg, who currently serves as city manager of Evans, a city of about 22,000 people near Greeley, will take up the role July 6.
Becklenberg succeeds Mark Relph, who retired as city manager June 1 after seven years with the city. Police Chief Doug Stephens was appointed by council to serve as interim city manager until Becklenberg takes over.
Becklenberg was one of three finalists considered by council along with Jim Thorsen, the former city manager of Cherry Hills Village, and A.J. Krieger, who is currently the town manager of Firestone.
Overall, the city had 77 applicants for the position, all of whom are current Colorado residents.
"We had many excellent applicants and I’m proud of the unbelievable agreement that all stakeholders in this process reached, clearly identifying Jim as the best and most obvious choice as Littleton’s next city manager," said Littleton Mayor Kyle Schlachter in a statement.
Becklenberg, a public service veteran with 25 years of experience in local government, has shepherded Evans through challenges similar to those faced by Littleton, a key factor in his selection, according to Schlachter.
Becklenberg helped lead an effort to pass a ballot measure in Evans for a new sales tax to provide funds for road maintenance and widening, a similar feat to the success of Ballot Issue 3A in the November election in Littleton.
Seen as a must-pass issue by Littleton's council, 3A raised the city's sales tax by 0.75% to bring in millions more for vital infrastructure projects including road repair, construction and fleet maintenance.
The continued management of the new funds, as well as ensuring transparency around spending, will be a key task for Becklenberg as he transitions into his new role.
Becklenberg, as Evans city manager, also oversaw construction of a new wastewater treatment plant and has called Evans' water supply “the biggest challenge to the city’s growth," according to a December 2021 Greeley Tribune article.
Water continues to be a major stressor for the Front Range and Denver metro area as climate change threatens dwindling supply and regional leaders look to solutions, which have included restricting where grass can be planted in Aurora and siphoning water from the San Luis Valley in Douglas County, though that latter project is currently on hold.
Other issues more specific to Littleton include continued refinement and implementation of the city's new Unified Land Use Code (ULUC), which council members have called a "living document."
The code, approved by council in October, overhauled the city's previous zoning guidelines, which city leaders had called antiquated and restrictive.
Under the ULUC, major corridors such as Santa Fe Drive, Broadway and Littleton Boulevard have the potential to support denser mixed-use developments, such as new condo or apartment buildings, to help meet growing demand for housing.
It has, however, led to contention among some community members who have routinely voiced their concerns with the code, and growth and development in general, before council.
Becklenberg, speaking at a May 19 forum while he was still undergoing vetting from council, said he sees "tensions that can come up when new developments challenge some traditional expectations."
"The big challenge is not 'do we grow or not?'" Becklenberg said. "It's how does Littleton grow in a way that preserves the character that is here and still can accommodate emerging demands and economic trends."
When it comes to addressing residents' concerns, Becklenberg said it's all about building personal connections.
"I need to listen first, I need to understand a lot of the history and where individuals and groups are coming from," he said. "Eventually, we can talk about the city's goals, the city's priorities, and how we can synthesize the citizens' interest in those long-term historical values and where we are going in the future."
But despite the challenges ahead, Becklenberg said Littleton's momentum is strong and praised the recent work of current and past councils and staff.
"It's all the wind in the sails that I see ... that really makes this the time to be in Littleton," Becklenberg said.
Becklenberg is credentialed by the International City and County Managers Association. He earned a master of public administration degree from the University of Kansas and a bachelor of science degree in public affairs from Indiana University, Bloomington.
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