Park City taps Marsac Building veteran to be first-ever resident advocate
Michelle Downard has worked in the Park City Building Department for 15 years, rising through the ranks to become a key staffer in a department that has a crucial role in protecting people amid the growth of the community.
Starting as an officer who enforced municipal codes, Downard eventually became the deputy chief building official, the No. 2 post in the department. Downard oftentimes has to intervene when there are disputes regarding construction. The Building Department also has broad duties in enforcing municipal codes that are not exclusively related to construction. She has worked in the department during some of the busiest years on record for the construction industry in Park City.
Downard will soon bring the background in the Building Department to a different post at the Marsac Building that will also likely put her in the middle of tensions. The municipal government has tapped her to become City Hall’s first-ever resident advocate, a staff position that is designed to assist people through the local government’s processes.
Mayor Andy Beerman in his State of the City address in February indicated City Hall would hire a resident advocate. The mayor at the time told the crowd municipal processes are complicated and the resident advocate would be a guide for the public.
Downard said the post is appealing as she will focus on balancing the needs of residents and those of the municipal government. She said City Hall values customer service and she wants to advance those efforts as the resident advocate.
“I would say the process is in-depth,” she said about the municipal government’s planning, zoning and building procedures, adding, “The hope is to just guide people.”
She will also be assigned to assist as the Community Development Department, the umbrella department for planning, building, engineering and housing, launches a new software program. Downard said she will conduct outreach and gather feedback about the new software, which is designed to streamline processes in the department. There have been regular concerns from the industry about the complexities of the municipal processes.
Park City leaders created the resident advocate post in late 2018 in a budget adjustment in the middle of the fiscal year. The salary is budgeted at between $64,000 and $89,747 annually.
City Hall conducted an internal recruitment, opting for Downard over several other unidentified staffers. She will remain the deputy chief building official until her successor is hired and trained.
Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager and the staffer who will oversee the resident advocate, said Downard has a “high drive for customer service” as he described her selection. He added that she has a technical knowledge of the municipal codes.
“Soft skills and hard skills,” Dias said about her, adding that she exemplifies what the elected officials are seeking in the resident advocate. “We were hopeful she was going to apply.”
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