Hayden hires interim town manager | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden hires interim town manager

Lance Stewart a former SSWSC athlete, Rangely town manager

Mike Lawrence

— Hayden's new interim town manager honed his ski racing skills decades ago on the slopes of Howelsen Hill and, for years as an adult, visited Hayden's athletic fields to watch his sons compete against the Tigers with the Rangely Panthers.

Lance Stewart was in familiar territory Monday, his first day on the job in Hayden Town Hall. The 57-year-old Grand Junction resident provides town management consulting services through Schmueser Gordon Meyer, an engineering and consulting firm based in Glenwood Springs. He worked as Rangely's town manager from 2000 to 2008.

The Hayden Town Council announced Stewart's hire in a news release during the weekend. His contract runs until a new, full-time town manager is seated. Stewart said he hopes to make a hire by Thanksgiving, which would be a few weeks later than the Nov. 1 start date supported by the Town Council earlier this month. Former Town Manager Russ Martin's last day on the job was July 30. Martin left Hayden after more than six years to become the town manager in Camp Verde, Ariz.

The initial plan was for Hayden Mayor Lorraine Johnson to take on town manager roles during the hiring process. But Hayden Finance Director Lisa Dowling said Monday that legal counsel Tami Tanoue of Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency discovered in a review of the town's charter that only Hayden's town manager can handle personnel decisions. Dowling said Tanoue told Hayden officials about Stewart and two other candidates who could take on the interim town manager role.

Hayden officials also must prepare the town's 2011 budget for Town Council review, with adoption by Dec. 1, and address several municipal projects such as ongoing sidewalk improvements near Hayden High School.

Dowling said Stewart was the clear choice to guide those efforts.

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"I'm feeling really confident that he's going to be able to do this," Dowling said. "We're glad to have somebody steering the ship."

Stewart will be paid $125 an hour and will work as many as 20 hours a week. Dowling said he won't receive benefits, such as health insurance. His hourly pay, assuming 20 hours a week, works out to $10,000 per month or $120,000 per year. Martin earned $82,658 per year, plus benefits, Dowling said. She said Stewart's pay will come from funds originally designated for Martin.

"It will be close to being a wash, for what was already in the budget," Dowling said. "The expertise was worth the expense."

Before becoming Rangely's town manager, Stewart said, he owned a TrueValue hardware store in the town for 21 years. During that time, he served on numerous local boards and commissions, which led to two elected terms on Rangely Town Council. He met Martin years ago, Stewart said, through regional economic development work.

Stewart said he also became familiar with the Hayden area by traveling to watch his two sons, now adults, play high school sports.

"We competed against Hayden on the athletic field all the time," Stewart said. "It's not like I'm a total stranger to the area."

Stewart has a bachelor's degree in business management and a master's degree in planning, both from the University of Wyoming. At Hayden Town Hall on Monday, he wore jeans belted with a Wyoming buckle, a Hawaiian-style shirt and cowboy boots.

Stewart said he grew up in southern Wyoming and traveled to Steamboat Springs as a youth to learn Alpine ski racing with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"I started out on Howelsen Hill before Mount Werner or Storm Peak was even open," he said.

While working as Hayden's part-time town manager, Stewart also will be spending up to 20 hours per week working for the town of Collbran, about an hour northeast of Grand Junction.

Stewart said Collbran also is working on its 2011 budget, along with a growth master plan and improvements to the town's rodeo grounds and community center.

"Collbran is quite a bit quieter than what's going on up here," he said.

Stewart said the practice of providing temporary government management services is known as "circuit riding." He said he plans to stay in Hayden one or two nights a week, likely in an extra room offered by Public Works Director Sam Barnes.

"I don't find it to be overly stressful, but you do have to stay focused," Stewart said about working with two communities. "The worst part is probably the commuting."