County picks Delta man for manager post

Rural experience makes Kerby favorite for position

With a unanimous vote and after only a few minutes of deliberation, La Plata County commissioners said Tuesday they will offer the county manager job to Delta City Manager Joseph Kerby.

“He demonstrated an understanding of the issues, rural Colorado county government, was inquisitive and had a demeanor and quality about him that I think will fit well in this community,” said Bobby Lieb, chairman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners.

Kerby has been the Delta city manager since 2010, where he oversees more than 100 employees and manages a $26 million annual budget, according to his application. He also has served as deputy county manager in Douglas County, Montrose County manager and city manager in Iola, Kan. He has more than 30 years of experience working in the government sector. Kerby has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in business, with an emphasis on computer-resource management.

County officials next will enter contract negotiations, the terms of which were discussed Tuesday in a closed-door meeting after commissioners publicly made their selection. Kerby was chosen Tuesday from a list of four finalists. One of the initial five finalists pulled out of contention last week.

Commissioners delayed choosing a candidate last week after closed-door interviews and a public meet-and-greet to allow more time for county staff members to complete background checks.

During the delay, Estes Park negotiated a contract with finalist Frank Lancaster for a job as town manager, paying $135,000 annually. The offer, which will not be made official until a public hearing and vote at 1 p.m. today, is a more than $25,000 reduction from what he is earning as Larimer County manager, according to news reports. He would be required to start the job on or before May 21, news reports said.

Also in the group of five finalists for the La Plata County job were: Edward Green, former Garfield County manager; David Mitchem, Pagosa Springs town manager; and D. Michael Segrest, a California-based consultant who is a former Snowmass Village town manager and a former assistant city manager in Boulder.

Commissioners said Tuesday they had multiple favorites in the candidate pool, though Kerby stood out as a front-runner. Commissioner Wally White said the final decision was difficult because the applicants in this round of the search were quality contenders. Hotter called the five finalists “a good slate of characters” and said it “made a difference” that each had Colorado experience and backgrounds.

The decision brings to a close a process started last summer when then-County Manager Shawn Nau abruptly resigned, citing family reasons, and returned to his former post in Arizona.

The process also concluded differently than it began as commissioners opted to discuss the candidates in a public meeting in response to community criticism over a closed-door process that resulted in a pending legal proceeding with The Durango Herald.

As part of that litigation, a court will review audio recordings taken during two closed-door meetings in January to see if Colorado’s open-meeting law was violated and the recordings should be made available for public inspection.

Commissioners said Tuesday they were glad the decision to negotiate with Kerby was unanimous.

“You have three commissioners all in agreement,” Lieb said, adding jokingly, “Despite what people say, we can agree.”

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