Candidates narrowed to five

Commissioners close to hiring county manager

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners has narrowed down its list of candidates for county manager to five people, including a well-known local figure.

The list was narrowed down from more than 50 applicants with the help of video interviews.

Candidate: Dennis A. Hunt Hometown: Pagosa Springs, Colo. Most recent government job: County manager for Archuleta County. Candidate: Larry A. Layton Hometown: Parker, Ariz. Most recent government job: County administrator for La Paz County, Ariz. Candidate: Thomas A. Sullivan Hometown: Great Bend, Kan. Most recent government job: County administrator for Barton County, Kan. Candidate: Douglas A. Clark Hometown: Littleton, Colo. Most recent government job: City manager for Englewood, Colo. Candidate: Curtis J. Mucklow Hometown: Steamboat Springs Most recent government job: Routt County director/agriculture agent at the Routt County Cooperative Extension Service

"I can honestly say each of them has their strong points," said Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak.

"They're all going into the interview on equal footing."

All the candidates have management experience at the local government level. Three of the candidates are from Colorado, including a current county manager in Archuleta County, where Pagosa Springs is located.

Dennis A. Hunt has been the county manager for nine years and has served on statewide boards with Commissioners Dan Ellison and Nancy Stahoviak.

A former CEO in the private sector, Hunt agreed with the commissioners that a county manager would serve the people better. He sees the county manager as the CEO of a company.

"County government is a business," Hunt said. "Your stockholders are your citizens and your commissioners are your board of directors."

In his current job, Hunt managed to lead his county out of debt, while managing to secure major funding for its local airport and transportation needs.

The current county administrator in La Paz, Ariz., Larry Layton, is also a former businessman and owner who first got involved in county government as an elected official.

"County government can make a real difference in people's lives," Layton said. "It's not even the really big things, it's more the smaller things that means so much to people."

Layton recalled being able to help a woman get her small street named after her deceased father.

"She literally had tears in her eyes and she wanted to give me some cookies," Layton recalled.

Not content with the small things, Layton has been involved in county government at the national level, serving as president of a regional county association that included Colorado.

Layton wants Routt County to find ways of making money in an entrepreneurial fashion.

"What we did here, (La Paz County) the county built a jail large enough, we rent beds to the federal government," Layton said.

"We turn over a million dollars to the county general fund."

Another out-of-state applicant is Thomas Sullivan, another county administrator serving Barton County, Kan.

He is obviously serious about the job. He read four months' worth of minutes from commissioners' meetings while talking with the county's key players.

Sullivan was impressed with Routt County's work on community master plans, something his county has implemented as well.

He specifically mentioned the Routt County Board's decision to reject the Lafarge gravel pit proposal based on the community plan's guidelines concerning scenic views.

"I'm a person who really wants to develop strategic plans for the community," Sullivan said. "If the citizens said this is what they want, you have to stick with the plan."

Another Colorado candidate is Douglas Clark, the former city manager in Englewood, a Denver suburb.

As city manager there, Clark oversaw 460 employees while initiating water and wastewater treatment plant upgrades; expanded the Neighborhood Watch from 45 to 450 blocks; and negotiated the city purchase of a 1.3 million-square-foot shopping mall for redevelopment.

Clark said he's ready to jump in on local issues.

"Routt County is experiencing growth pressure and I'm sure land use issues is in the forefront of public policy issues," Clark said. But Clark said the most important stewardship is service to the public.

The only local man to make the finalist list was C.J. Mucklow, the director for the Routt County Cooperative Extension Service.

"I'm not unhappy where I'm at," Mucklow said. "I looked at it as a challenge and an opportunity to make the position a success."

Mucklow's obvious strong point is his knowledge of Routt County.

He's worked at the local extension office for 11 years, helping develop local agricultural product companies, helping to develop land conservation programs and even developing the "Guide to Rural Living" for new residents. The guide was later used as a prototype for eight other counties.

"I have some ideas on some things we can do or bring forward, but I want to keep those for the commissioners' interview," Mucklow said.

Interviews will be conducted Friday and next week with the help of an interview committee of city, county and private sector representatives. The commissioners hope to make an offer soon after.

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