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Newly hired Boulder Transportation director Carlos Hernandez resigns, effective immediately

Move occurs after six weeks in new post

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
Carlos Hernandez

Carlos Hernandez’s leadership of Boulder’s transportation department was short-lived.

Hernandez, whom Boulder hired in November to start last month as director of the Department of Transportation and Mobility, has resigned effective immediately, officials announced Friday.

The news shocked Boulder Transportation Advisory Board Member Mark McIntyre.

“It’s totally out of the blue, stunning,” McIntyre said. “I was a Carlos fan, and excited first of all to have a full-time actual director and was excited by the fact that was Carlos. I have no idea why or how this happened.”

Hernandez is a certified planner and transportation planner, and University of Colorado Environmental Design program graduate with a degree in city, urban and regional planning. His previous work included partnering with Boulder staff on the Chautauqua Access Management Plan, East Arapahoe Transportation Plan, and the 30th Street and Colorado Avenue Corridor study.

He started Jan. 13.

Hernandez was selected after the city last year declined to hire either of two other finalists brought forward by a previous search. Hernandez was hired after the search was reopened in July, after the city did not make offers to Josh Diekmann, a city traffic engineer in Tacoma, Wash., or to Amy Ford, director of the Mobility on Demand Alliance for Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

“While are disappointed in this decision, it is essential that the department and the candidate are the right fit for each other and for the community,” City Manager Jane Brautigam said in an email to transportation advisory board members.

Hernandez’s decision was made late Thursday, a city spokesman said.

Bill Cowern, principal traffic engineer for the city, and who was previously interim transportation director while the position remained vacant, has agreed to again assume the director role on an interim basis, Brautigam said.

“We are thankful to have Bill and the stability he provides in this role,” Brautigam said in the email. “It is our intention to reexamine the search process as we move forward. We will review lessons learned from the previous search, opportunities to attract the best candidates, and steps we can take to further ensure a solid foundation.”

Deputy City Manager Tanya Ange will work closely with Cowern and the city’s human resources officials to fill the position.

Attempts to reach Hernandez were not successful. Bill Fox, principal at Fox Tuttle Transportation Group, where Hernandez was previously a principal, said the resignation was news to him, and was unaware of any plans for Hernandez to return to the firm.

Hernandez’s departure comes as the city is working to ameliorate concerning workplace environment issues in the Public Works Department, which includes the transportation staff and the service it provides. The concerns were identified in a city consultant’s report last year and included turnover among leadership, among others, such as transportation staffers feeling “there is little room for advancement.”

Moving into transportation management positions requires a bachelor’s degree, the report said, and most “front-line” supervisory staff don’t have one, and the city does not offer a path to obtain the degree.

“Disconnection between the ‘field’ and ‘downtown’ was a common complaint” among transportation staffers, the report said.

The report also said GO Boulder, which works to create options and increase available travel choices, “sees its mission to be more like Seattle than Longmont or Thornton,” and mentioned that it was akin to having a “champagne taste on a beer budget.”

Since the report was given to the city, officials have worked to address the issues. A proposal is now circulating among city officials to change the organization structure of the Public Works Department. It includes potentially eliminating the overarching public works director position and having the director of public works for transportation and public works for utilities report directly to the City Manager’s Office.

The proposal for structural changes in the department was released as a 90% complete draft earlier this month, and could be implemented this year. It also included focus on cultural changes to make the city Public Works Department psychologically safer, so employees have less fear of discussing their ideas or mistakes.

Another round of conversations, built on the initial recommendations meant to improve the Public Works Department released this month, is set to take place with city officials in the near future, too.

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