County manager candidates, Q & A
June 14, 2016
A Grand County Manager candidate Meet and Greet will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 15 at Mountain Parks Electric in Granby. Interviews are scheduled for the following day, Thursday, June 16.
The candidates are Bradley J. Hanson of Onawa, Iowa; Lee A. Staab of Larkspur; Jon Stavney of Eagle; and James Thompson of Casa Grande, Ariz.
Four panels will conduct interviews. The panels will consist of the Board of County Commissioners, county staff, elected officials, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs representatives and executives from other public entities. The staff and elected officials panels will include citizens who sent letters of interest to partake in the process and were selected by the Board of County Commissioners.
County Manager candidate profiles
All candidates were emailed this question: If elected County Manager, what will you do in the first 90 days? They were asked to also provide a 100-word bio.
The following candidates replied via email prior to press time at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 14. James Thompson was unable to respond due to a family situation. Lee Staab was unable to be contacted before the deadline for the story.
Jon Stavney is president of the Colorado River District and participated in negotiations of the Cooperative Agreement, and he continues to seek implementation for Western Slope communities. After 10 years on the Eagle, Colo.Town Board while working as a Project Manager for custom homes, Stavney was elected County Commissioner where he guided a 30 percent budget reduction, acquired land for river access, and spearheaded a federal land exchange. Jon was tapped as Town Manager to facilitate Eagle’s transition following retirement of leaders with 70 years of experience. He also oversaw processes leading to a successful election to fund a whitewater park in Eagle.
In my first 90 days as Grand County Manager, I will work closely with the Commissioners and with senior staff to seek organizational stability and begin to re-establish confidence. Leadership in Colorado counties with many electeds, requires the art of inclusion, persuasion and facilitation. A Manager does not have full positional authority over many directors. My most important job will be to listen and learn before assessing or acting. It is common for leaders to overreact following crisis by creating top-down policies and micromanaging which weakens the healthy boundaries of the organization. This can turn into a corrosive cycle of reaction, distrust and internal questioning. I plan to be very cautious about assessment before suggesting any major changes.
I believe strongly in transparency and public engagement and will reach out and seek to understand any constructive criticism including from candidates. I believe the tools for Grand County to be effective as an organization and responsive to the community can be cultivated within the organization and within the community. I suggest that Grand County use a community engagement process to determine long-term goals and create a north star for the organization. Nearby counties have also done this internally by clarifying and affirming the organizational values. In the short term, it will be important to seek to separate vital public policy discussion and related “politics” from the day-to-day operations of the County. The Commissioners first need to agree to their own ground rules, by expecting honesty from each other, and by respecting the parameters of their role in governance that will allow the Manager to effectively manage. In hiring a Manager they will have taken that first step. As Manager, I will be requesting a re-establishment of those organizational roles and boundaries.
It will be important for the new manager to come in prepared with patience and positivity because change will require tremendous finesse. There will likely be a time that will also require significant conviction to implement difficult decisions. Any lasting change will need to fit the organization and the community. Emerging successfully from recent challenges will require agreement on strategic priorities by the Commissioners, as well as a cultivation of that vision and values within the organization, and alignment with the community. Though an outline of these priorities can emerge rapidly, creating buy-in and cultural alignment so that the organization can be successful will require an effort far beyond 90 days.
My family and I are from Colorado. I am a graduate of Arvada High School, a Metropolitan State University of Denver graduate, and a University of Colorado Denver Master’s in Public Administration graduate. I have been happily married for 24 years and have two incredible children. My daughter just graduated in three years from Simpson College and my son will be a high school junior. I love my chosen career field and am excited about working with the people, opportunities, research, information, new idea implementation, and work that I will perform for the community where I work, live, and play.
The first 90-day period can be summed up in two words: relationships and actions. These 90 days will develop goals that will be worked on, with limitation on the unforeseen issues that may arise, in coordination with the Grand County Leadership. The approximate first 30 days will be used to assess the situation with the budget, to discuss with the department directors what needs attention, prioritize those issues, to visit with businesses and assess what their views and concerns are within the community. In cooperation with the Grand County Economic Development will immediately contact regional, state, and federal staff members that work with economic development. Every moment that economic development is not worked on is a potential development located in another community.
The second 30 days, or there about, will be used to revise plans and discuss each county department’s strengths and weaknesses and how to address the weaknesses and enhance their strengths. These discussions will include budget planning and revenue execution, with the changes in revenue income to Grand County. We need to better anticipate potential situations where revenue streams may increase or decrease as the economy fluctuates, and create a forward looking plan for these potential situations.
The final 30 days will deal with the development and initial implementation of plans for what needs to be accomplished, how it needs to be completed, and where we need to focus through a prioritization schedule. In essence, I will accept this role, begin work immediately for the betterment of the community, and, without delay, start tomorrow’s future today.
Colorado and Grand County are incredible vibrant localities with constant change and associated challenges. Just look at the recent changes involving casino gambling, state and national lotteries, both medical and recreational marijuana use, and now grocery stores selling liquor. I believe there will be many other changes facing our community and I want to be part of the group of honest and concerned residents who work to resolve these issues. Many Americans are moving to Colorado, I’m sure many to Grand County as well. I have nearly four and a half years of experience as the chief administrative officer for municipalities in Nebraska and Iowa, and we are looking forward to our return to Colorado. Please help put me in a position to use my training, education, and experience to contribute to the citizens and leadership of this great county.