Paonia interim town manager Dan Dean has only been on the job about three weeks, but he's quickly learning the ropes. He's toured some of the town's facilities, met with several citizens, and last week attended his first meeting of the board of trustees, where he heard an update on the Elevate Fiber broadband project and a presentation on a new after-school program coming to Paonia Elementary School.
Board members discussed bids for cleaning up the former wastewater treatment plant, and took care of routine business including approving the bills. Trustees also engaged in a heated argument on the finer points of Robert's Rules of Order and entered into two executive sessions before adjourning sometime after 11 p.m.
None of that was unexpected or unusual, said Dean, who has more than three decades of experience in municipal government. "All boards have their issues to work through and this one's no different. You just have to be positive and find ways to work together as best you can."
Dean has been involved in municipal government since 1985. He started as a circuit rider, traveling for three years between the northeastern Colorado towns of Peetz, Fleming, Crook, and Iliff, which had a total population of 1,000. He then worked in Oregon as a city administrator and planner for about eight and a half years, then on to Cook, Neb., for about two years, and to Burlington, Colo.
In his home state of Indiana he spent eight years working at the county level, and another three and a half years at the state level with the Indiana Social Services Fiscal Office providing grants for community agencies.
Most recently, he spent just over eight years as town manager for Mead, a bedroom community for Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley and Boulder.
Dean was one of three finalists considered by Paonia trustees and received unanimous support from the board. "All three finalists were highly skilled, knowledgeable and experienced," said Mayor Pro Tem David Bradford. He saw Dean's experience in contract negotiations and overseeing development as strong points. He also voted for Dean based on his ability to respond to questions with confidence.
The town also needs an interim manager who could work with a small budget, he said. Dean "displayed a knowledge of understanding what the town needs in his responses."
Bradford said he has now sat through three selection processes for an interim manager and each has been an educational experience. "I don't think most of us realize how complex a town manager's job is," he said. "Skills needed for the job in the 21st century are overwhelming."
Dean said he believes his strong points include communication, consensus-building and working with people. As interim town manager, Dean said he sees his job differently than that of a long-term manager, who would likely be looking more at the community's strengths, the interests of the citizens and how to help utilize the resources they have to build the community.
He sees his current job more along the lines of putting out fires. Codification of town laws, creation of the 2017 budget, which Dean says is behind schedule, and work on the out of town water delivery system projects, which are currently out to bid, are on his short list of priorities.
At last week's meeting, trustees also appointed a representative to the Delta County Airport Advisory Board. Dean visited the North Fork Valley Airport, which is 75-percent owned by the town. "It's a nice little airport," said Dean, and a "topic of interest."
Dean has a personal interest in flying. He holds a pilot's license, but admits he's never trained for mountain flying. "I'm a fair-weather flyer," he said.
While assisting the town in recruitment of a permanent town manager is also high on his priority list, Dean told the board he may have interest in the long-term position. "We'll just see how it evolves," he said. "I don't want that to get in the way of my doing the recruitment for them."
While he's been in town less than a month, he sees a lot of potential for the area. "I'm enjoying it and enjoying being here," he said. He's getting to know town staff and board members, and familiarizing himself with the community.
After living on the plains for much of his life, he also enjoys the mountains and scenery. "I like to walk, and I've walked almost the entire community since I've been here," he said.
He plans to attend this week's Mountain Harvest Festival, which earned the Governor's Award for Best Events, Festival or Recurring Activity in a Small Community. "It's well-deserved and they should be proud of it," he said.