In Polson, Crossett Turns to Building Consensus

By Beacon Staff

POLSON – Todd Crossett was not exactly looking to become a city administrator when he noticed an advertisement for such a position one morning in his hometown newspaper.

But the Polson city manager job listed in the Sandpoint (Idaho) Bee seemed intriguing. So he polished his diverse resume and applied for a position that had been vacant for nearly a year since the resignation of the inaugural city manager.

Early indications show that the Polson position is a good match for Crossett, whose previous direct government experience consists of a two-year stint as a Bonner County (Idaho) commissioner.

“I’m really interested in communities, interested in the process of how communities make decisions,” he said. “That process is really intriguing.”

And while Polson is new to this form of government – Jay Henry served a one-year stint after voters approved the shift to a city manager – Crossett is impressed by what he’s seen since taking over the job June 15.

“There seems to be a real interest in being proactive and developing vision,” he said. “People seem to care about the community. They seem to want to make sure it’s a nice place to live and work and have opportunities. That’s attractive to me.”

Crossett is an understated person who won’t impress you with flare or style, but that does not diminish his confidence. His humor is dry, his smile quick, and he’s a deep thinker who has quickly thrown himself into his challenging new position.

At a recent city council meeting he introduced two impressive Power Point presentations to demonstrate pros and cons of issues facing commissioners.

One, whether to allow chickens in the city limits, and another on the feasibility of a local option tax; a shift of one end of the government spectrum to the other, but no less important to those involved.

His job, he stressed, is to present information and alternatives, not to establish policy.

Former Mayor Jules Clavadetscher, now a city commissioner, is pleased with Crossett’s early performance.

“He’s a bright, aggressive administrator,” said Clavadetscher, who currently is running for reelection. “He’s very efficient.”

That sentiment is shared by current Mayor Lou Marchello, who is running for another term.

“I’m just really tickled,” he said. “I’ve been happy with him.”

As were the public who lauded him during the comment period of a recent commission for both his preparation and presentation.

Crossett, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and a master’s degree in international management from Whitworth College, said his business skills will benefit him, but he is quick to note differences he sees between the private and public sector.

“The skills definitely transfer: understanding finances, planning, personnel, human resources, and all those things,” he said. “You just have to apply them differently.

Government can’t be run like a business, said Crossett, because, unlike the private sector, you can’t limit your variables.

“The only way to raise revenue to pay for increased services is raising rates and that’s not going to happen in the public sector where,” he said, “you’re always trying to maximize services yet charge less, thus decreasing the cost to the taxpayer.”

A fluent speaker of Russian, Crossett views his communication skills and consensus-building abilities to be some of his greatest assets.

But don’t look for him to set about reinventing the wheel or start projects from scratch. The idea of a resort tax idea, for example, has been floating around for a couple of years.

“I don’t want to discount what has been done in the past. There are some good things going on,” he said. “There needs to be a driver, somebody to generate the momentum and then people will get on.”

Completing the revamping of the city’s comprehensive plan – which already is underway – is on Crossett’s short list as is continuing a vitalization of the downtown.

“You have really good people here. The culture here is good. They’re team players,” he said in reference to the city’s employees. “I think there are a lot of positives.”