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Paonia interim manager says goodbye this week

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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia interim town manager Dan Dean's last day on the job is this Friday. New town administrator Kenneth Knight will take over the position on Feb. 1.

Dan Dean will finish his brief stint with the Town of Paonia this Friday. Dean was hired as interim town manager in September following the abrupt resignation of Jane Berry last July.

Dean accepted a similar position with the City of Kimball, Neb. He describes Kimball as a plains town of about 2,500 with an economy based primarily on agriculture, with some oil and gas activity. "The staff is very professional and dedicated to their work and the community," he said.

Dean will start his new job on Feb. 1, the same day Paonia's new town administrator, Kenneth Knight, is expected to start his new job. Dean said he met with Knight last week and showed him around town. "I have high hopes for him," he said.

Dean said he told town staff that the decision to take the job in Kimball was difficult. In his short time he's grown close to the staff and to the community. "The town is so warm and embracing," he said. More than anything, "I'll miss the people."

In its search for a permanent administrator, Dean was the board of trustees' choice for the job. But by the time they offered it to him, he had accepted a similar position in Kimball, Neb. "It really was a matter of timing," said Dean. Had the Paonia job been offered first he would have accepted it.

In his less than five months with the town Dean oversaw passage of the 2017 budget and the start of a $700,000 water line replacement project currently under way on Lamborn Mesa. Trustees and staff have had high praise for Dean. But then, he is generally a positive person. Shortly after he arrived, people commented about his calm demeanor and pleasant nature. His first board meeting included an argument over Robert's Rules of Order and two executive sessions and lasted until after 11 p.m. "All boards have their issues to work through and this one's no different," he said at the time. "You just have to be positive and find ways to work together as best you can."

For the resources it currently has, the town is doing well, said Dean, but there is a lot of work to be done. "They have great desires, but not the resources" needed to fulfill them. He urges homeowners to take care of their properties and show pride in ownership, and the town to take care of its infrastructure. Some of the projects the town has taken on, including the current waterline project, the Third Street project to replace water delivery infrastructure, scheduled for completion in 2017, and the ongoing sidewalk project are be applauded.

The strongest advice he gives council is to use a "bigger picture approach" in developing a strategic plan for the future. He uses "Space to Create" as an example. The initiative, funded with public and private money to develop affordable housing and work space for artists, is currently being considered by the town. "If they had a bigger picture they would have a better idea if it fit into it," he said.

He calls the arrival of broadband internet service in Paonia "a great resource to build that strategy around." He urges the town to seize the opportunity to build upon the service, which can be used as a tool to attract high-tech and lone eagle companies.

"I'll probably lead the charge on high-speed internet in Kimball," he said.

As interim manager, Dean was tasked with completing codification of the town's ordinances, which has been in the works for several years. In January, 2015, the board adopted the municipal code. "I expect to have a copy of that next week," said Dean, who will be on the job just long enough to review the draft. After that, he said, "It won't be much to finish it." Publishing of the ordinances on the town's website is "the last little hurdle."

Dean said he's grateful to the board for the opportunity to spend time in the North Fork Valley. "I really enjoyed my time here," said Dean. "Thank you for allowing me to be here."

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