AURORA | Jim Twombly says he plans to wrap up his four-and-a-half-year tenure as Aurora’s city manager in April, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
“I’ve got two grandkids in St. Louis, one in Tulsa and three in Oklahoma City, and it’s really feeling like I can retire and, I’m kind of missing out on some of the things that I’d like to do with them,” he said. “Most of my friends are retired. And I’ve got my health. And in terms of traveling and that sort of thing, I’m ready for that.”
At 69 years old, Twombly has spent more than half of his life in public service. He was hired by Aurora in 2018 to replace outgoing City Manager Skip Noe. Before that, he served as manager of the cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Pella, Iowa.
Under Aurora’s council-manager form of government, the city manager is responsible for implementing policies approved by City Council members and is responsible for operations of the city government, including hiring employees.
When asked what he will remember most fondly about his tenure in Aurora, which he called the “capstone” of his career, Twombly praised the staff of the city of Aurora and their commitment to residents.
“I’ve said many times that this has been my favorite job in my 40-plus years of public service. This has been the most fun,” he said. “I just felt like we have such a positive group that’s so dedicated to their work and to the community.”
Twombly’s time in Aurora was marked by upheaval, both locally and across the state and nation.
Less than a year after Twombly’s appointment, Aurora police and paramedics caused the death of Elijah McClain, igniting more than a year of intense protests and laying the groundwork for a historic reform agreement between Aurora’s public safety agencies and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
Beginning in spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic also destabilized the nation’s economy and further fueled simmering social tensions. Reflecting on the city’s response to COVID, Twombly said he was proud of the city’s ability to continue services during the pandemic and stood by Aurora’s decision to cooperate with the Tri-County Health Department on safety measures.
“Obviously, with a three-county area that they were trying to cover, they needed partners like the city of Aurora to help ensure that those businesses that were mandated to be shut down were,” he said.
Twombly’s decision to fire former police chief Vanessa Wilson in 2022 kicked off a messy process of searching for a new chief. Wilson has since accused Twombly of folding under pressure from council conservatives by firing her, while Twombly has said she was fired due to deficient leadership.
Former chief Dan Oates returned to lead the department on an interim basis in May. The city’s current interim chief, Art Acevedo, took the reins of the department in December, after the first recruitment campaign ended in failure.
When asked whether he would have done anything differently to ensure the success of public safety reforms, he mentioned wishing the city would have hired an independent panel to investigate the Elijah McClain incident sooner, calling the initial decision to hire a former police officer to conduct the investigation a “false start.”
“It was very thorough, and it was hard, I think, for some folks to hear, but it didn’t mince any words and was what needed to be done,” he said of the final independent report.
The 2021 election also brought in a new crop of conservative City Council members who at times were publicly critical of Twombly’s leadership. Twombly acknowledged that the council had become more polarized since he began work in Aurora but said he freely chose to retire when he did.
When asked whether the current council was uniquely challenging for staff to work with, he said only that councils “are always challenging.”
“You’ve got individual members who have their own priorities, their own experiences and their own backgrounds that lead them to the decisions that they make, and so that’s sort of the expectation coming to the job,” Twombly said.
He said housing the homeless, promoting affordable housing and improving the city’s development review process as some of the major undertakings that the next city manager will have to be prepared to handle
In a city news release, Twombly was praised for maintaining city services during the pandemic; establishing the city’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and championing water conservation measures alongside the mayor and City Council.
“Jim has done an extraordinary job during a very difficult chapter in the history of our city, and he will be missed,” Mayor Mike Coffman said in the release.
Council members also acknowledged the contributions of Twombly:
- Curtis Gardner: “I’ve appreciated Jim’s steady leadership for the city of Aurora and its residents. … He led the city through an unprecedented pandemic and ensured we continued to provide services to our residents. It’s been a pleasure working with Jim and I am thrilled he’ll have the opportunity to enjoy retirement with his family.”
- Juan Marcano: “In my time working with City Manager Twombly, I’ve found him to be professional, communicative and responsive to council and community concerns. … He acknowledged the status quo with our civil service was unacceptable and supported entering the consent decree with the state, helped residents access vaccines and financial support through a deadly pandemic, and has navigated a divided council with patience and grace. I am grateful for his service to Aurora and wish him the best in his retirement.”
- Francoise Bergan: “I’ve worked alongside Jim Twombly over the course of his time at our city. … He’s a consummate professional who has led the city through some challenging and exciting times. I truly wish him the very best in his retirement and having the time to enjoy what is most important in life, his family.”
Twombly’s last day is scheduled to be April 7. The City Council will meet in executive session on Feb. 13 to discuss the process for filling the city manager position.