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Tom Carr

Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr is retiring June 30 after 11 years with the city.

Carr played a role in a number of initiatives, including Boulder’s assault weapons and bump stock and high-capacity magazine bans and its cooperative housing ordinance and short-term rental ordinance. Further, he was involved in the city’s exploration of forming a municipal utility, with efforts on this paused in November when voters approved a franchise agreement with Xcel Energy.

Sarah Huntley, director of communication and engagement for the city, called Carr a “tremendous thought partner and colleague, especially when it comes to challenging, complex projects and topics.”

“We have had many deep conversations, and sometimes debates, and I have always appreciated learning from the way Tom processes information, how clearly he articulates his position and his tireless passion for doing what he believes to be the right thing,” Huntley wrote in an email.

Mayor Sam Weaver said Carr has been around for as long as Weaver has been involved in city politics. The pair first met during Weaver’s orientation as a new member of Boulder’s Planning Board.

There have been quite a few memorable moments, but Weaver will never forget working with Carr on the assault weapons ban, which Boulder passed in May 2018.

“That was obviously super high profile and there were lots of conflicting interests and also a lot of both state and federal laws that we had to be careful to work within,” Weaver said.

However, Carr’s tenure as city attorney has not been without controversy. Over the summer, for example, the city provided incorrect information to the Bedrooms Are For People campaign that prohibited the initiative from making the ballot.

Carr said Monday the issue was complicated by his focus on the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing negotiations with Xcel Energy.

“I feel badly for what those people went through,” he said. “Democracy is something we have to work hard on to preserve.”

Homelessness and police reform are other areas where the city often is criticized, and local activist Jasen Thorpe said he hopes that Council will consider this when hiring a new city attorney.

“I hope they’ll look to hire someone who can help Boulder set better policy for engaging with and serving the unhoused community… ” Thorpe said.

He also noted he’d like the new city attorney and city manager to work together to renegotiate the police labor union contract so Boulder can avoid doling out expensive severance packages when a police officer is terminated.

But Carr pointed to the city’s recent milestone of housing 1,000 formerly unhoused people since October 2017 and said he believes that other than a few instances, Boulder has a “really good police force.”

When recalling his time with Boulder, Carr said he’s proud of a lot of the work, including the assault weapons ban. But perhaps more than anything, Carr is proud of the team he cultivated in the city attorney’s office.

Much of his time as city attorney is spent writing memos, briefs and ordinances, supporting council and appearing in court to represent the city. A lot of it happens behind the scenes.

“Ninety percent of the work we do, Council never sees, the public never sees,” Carr said.

In addition to his work in Boulder, Carr served as an executive vice president of the International Municipal Lawyers Association and a founder and board member of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, according a news release from the city.

Former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett worked with Carr in coordinated efforts between the city and district attorney and found him to be “very practical and collaborative.”

“He’s a lawyer’s lawyer,” Garnett said. ‘He knows how to advocate for the interests of his client … but he also knows how to sit down and compromise.”

Next steps

The city attorney is one of three employees appointed by Boulder City Council. Others include the city manager and the municipal court judge.

Longtime City Manager Jane Brautigam retired in October. The city is in the midst of hiring a new city manager. In a recent council meeting, staff announced there are more than 50 applicants for the job.

The recruitment process for a new city attorney will begin immediately with the City Council selecting a few members for a subcommittee that will work with recruiters. The hope is to fill the position before Carr’s last day in June.

It’s important for the new hire to have a broad knowledge of various types of law and to understand municipalities, according to Weaver.

“The most important thing is that they enjoy working with the public as well as with elected officials,” he said.