Prime rib night at the Hi-way Bar was Rob Straebel's first taste of Hayden. He was getting settled in preparation for an interview at 9 a.m. the next day with the Hayden Town Board for the town manager position. That was almost six years ago.
He began talking to people about why he was in town, and Hi-way Bar owner Fawna Odom overheard him. Odom engaged Straebel in conversation and soon began introducing him as the new Hayden town manager.
"He was just that awesome, and I knew he would do a good job for the town," Odom said. "We were slammed, but I just got to talking to him, and he was very personable. So I just started introducing him, thinking, boy, we need to hire this guy."
At the bar that night, Straebel met many of the people he remains friends with today. The next morning, he had his interview and toured the town.
An avid outdoorsman, Straebel jumped at the opportunities for downhill and cross country skiing, hiking and mountain biking that Routt County offered. Also, he liked the position Hayden was in and realized what the town offered.
"I was thinking, this is a great opportunity with a town that's obviously growing, and a Town Board that's eager to improve the quality of life." Many people who worked with Straebel agree he contributed to improving the quality of life in Hayden in his five and a half years as town manager. On Friday -- his last day as town manager -- he stood, talking and smiling in the Hayden Town Hall meeting room, hugging and shaking hands with the people whom he has talked, worked, lived and shared memories with for the past five and a half years. They came to see him off and wish him luck with his new career as village administrator of the Village of Taos Ski Valley, N.M., population 84.
"We agreed and we disagreed, but we could always sit down and work it out," said Hayden Planning Commission Chairwoman Donna Hellyer. "He definitely had an interest in the town, and he grew considerably from that. I hope he'll carry that with him, but I sure hate losing him. It's our loss."
Straebel's job with Hayden was the first in his career out of graduate school. He had served as assistant town manager of Commerce City for two years while he was in school but was eager to be a full-fledged town manager, he said.
"He's one of my better friends -- one of the most honest, straight-forward people you'll meet in your life," said Raymond Martinez, a longtime friend of Straebel's. "He did well here because he's honest, and because of that, he will do well anywhere he goes."
But, before Straebel made the final decision to move to New Mexico, he encountered an obstacle: His longtime girlfriend said she would not move with him if he did not make a commitment. Shortly after, Straebel found himself proposing to Rose Conway.
Straebel said he and his fiancee will stick around Hayden for another week and then travel to see her family in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. He starts his new job Dec. 2 -- just in time for some fresh powder skiing in a new ski town.