Interim Santa Fe City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill wants to take “interim” out of her job title.
LaPan Hill, who was initially hired by Mayor Alan Webber as his chief of staff after he took office in March 2018, is among dozens of applicants who want the six-figure salary job on a permanent basis, according to documents obtained under a public records request.
“As a natural problem solver with over 15 years of experience in federal, state and local service focused in management, health policy and issue advocacy, I am uniquely qualified for the position of city manager at the city of Santa Fe,” LaPan Hill, who has been filling in on an interim basis since September, wrote in her cover letter Nov. 13. “I am confident in my ability to listen, address concerns and interpret feedback to drive progress, all while remaining responsive to the needs of stakeholders.”
LaPan Hill’s interest in taking on the job full time is somewhat of a surprise.
Last year, Webber said LaPan Hill would go back to being his chief of staff after he found the right person to fill the position.
“I’m confident that once we find a full-time city manager, her role as chief of staff will resume, and the work she was doing that was really critical for supporting both me and the city manager and the department heads will go back to the way it was,” Webber said at the time.
Webber and LaPan Hill declined interview requests Tuesday.
City spokeswoman Lilia Chacon would only say the city is continuing to interview candidates — 52 people applied — and expects to have a decision before the end of the month.
“We won’t have any additional comments about any of the candidates until a selection has been made,” Chacon said.
A Santa Fe native and 1999 graduate of Capital High School, LaPan Hill was tapped to replace Erik Litzenberg following Litzenberg’s resignation as city manager after a little more than a year on the job. Litzenberg, a former city fire chief who said the fire service was his true passion, was named Santa Fe County’s fire chief not long after he announced he was leaving the Webber administration.
LaPan Hill, who was paid about $88,400 as chief of staff, received a sizable bump in pay to take Litzenberg’s job. As interim city manager, she is paid $155,000 — the same salary as Litzenberg when he started the job.
After Webber tapped LaPan Hill to be interim city manager, LaPan Hill said her goal was to “keep making progress” with the team assembled by Webber “and continue to deliver better and better service to our residents.
“I take the work of managing the city very seriously,” she said in a statement at the time. “We’re on the right track in improving city services. We’ve got a great team of department heads. Now we need to keep moving ahead and, at the same time, conduct a comprehensive search for the next city manager.”
LaPan Hill graduated magna cum laude in 2003 from George Washington University, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and worked for eight years during the Obama administration as chief of staff to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ deputy secretary.
Prior to that, she worked as an account assistant at GMMB Inc., a political communications firm, and then as a health policy coordinator for the State Auditor’s Office in Helena, Mont. Both of those stints were for about a year, according to her résumé, which also shows that she worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign as well as the 2004 presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
After LaPan Hill moved back to Santa Fe with her husband and two children, she supported Webber in his campaign for mayor.
“Alan has the vision and steady hand to manage our complex problems,” LaPan Hill, whose likeness and endorsement appeared on a Webber campaign mailer, wrote in a letter to the editor before the 2018 municipal election.
“As he has said, we know how to solve many issues, we just haven’t had the resolve or systems to do it,” she wrote. “His ability to listen and engage all members of the community are exactly what we need.”
Only time will tell whether LaPan Hill is exactly what Webber needs or wants in a city manager.