While hitchhiking from Mexico to Denver, Rob Straebel found himself in the small community of Taos, N.M.
He was grateful just to be back in the United States hearing people speak English. He had just completed a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, working as a business consultant in Honduras in 1989 and 1990.
During his stop in Taos, Straebel was impressed by the community and its diversity. Though it had not changed much from its Native American roots, it had people from all cultural, religious and spiritual walks of life.
That was 20 years ago. Taos wouldn't be incorporated until 15 years later.
Now that Taos is a town, and Straebel is a town manager, the two will meet again, officially this time.
On Thursday, Straebel officially resigned as Hayden's town manager. After almost six years of serving in the position, Nov. 7 will be his last day.
"I'm going to miss having the close proximity to the community and strong ranching heritage we enjoy in Hayden," Straebel said. "I have always endorsed an open-door policy and have certainly enjoyed hearing residents concerns, complaints and gripes, and just working with community as a whole."
But it is time to move on, Straebel said.
In his time as Hayden's manager, he has helped bring numerous grants to the town and helped plan, organize and execute several projects, including the "downtown improvement project" -- building new sidewalks, drainage, curbs, gutters and street lights; the purchase of the land for Dry Creek Park; the construction of a new public works facility on the west end of town; the realignment of Breeze Basin, Poplar and Third streets; and the water treatment plant improvement project -- one of the biggest projects of his career.
Thankfully, the water treatment plant is complete, but still Straebel knows he is leaving a lot of unfinished business.
"There is a lot of work to be done in the town of Hayden, especially getting a grasp of all the growth and its tax base," Straebel said. "There could be a lot of upgrades to infrastructure, though we have made a lot of progress. I hope (the) town continues the course over (the) next few years."
From his college education and living in Honduras, Straebel speaks fluent Spanish and says he is glad he will be able to use his verbal skills in New Mexico. He visited there a couple weeks ago on vacation, talked with Taos town officials and was given the job four days later.
"It's a big move for me personally," Straebel said.
Taos has a smaller population than Hayden, but a larger budget as a ski resort destination. The top priority Straebel will face there is upgrading the town's water and sewer systems, he said.
Co-workers said Strabel will be missed in Hayden.
"He has helped the town get a lot of grant money that the town really needed," said Town Clerk Lisa Johnston. "He has helped out the town so much."