County welcomes new top manager

New La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby meets the public at the La Plata County Courthouse. An avid cyclist and mountain biker, Kerby said his ultimate career goal was to work on the Western Slope. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

New La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby meets the public at the La Plata County Courthouse. An avid cyclist and mountain biker, Kerby said his ultimate career goal was to work on the Western Slope.

La Plata County’s new county manager is coming into the job with goals to listen, build collaboration and look for ways that government can say “yes.”

“I’m not a fan of turf wars,” said Joe Kerby, who started his new position at the county Monday. “People should at least be at the table discussing issues rather than just saying they don’t agree.”

Before joining the county’s staff, Kerby was the city manager in Delta, a post he took in May 2010. He oversaw 100 to 160 employees and managed a $26 million budget, according to his application.

Before Kerby moved in, the county manager’s office had sat vacant for almost a year. Former county manager Shawn Nau abruptly resigned last summer.

Kerby’s $145,000 salary is $40,000 more than he was making in Delta and nearly $10,000 more than Nau’s final salary. But the county is not providing the same health insurance and housing benefits Kerby was provided in Delta.

Kerby has spent more than 30 years in city and county government.

He worked for the city of Colorado Springs for almost 20 years and spent four years working in two towns in southeastern Kansas.

The Western Slope was his ultimate goal, said Kerby, an active cyclist and mountain biker with two daughters. He became the county manager for Montrose County in 2006, and after a brief stint as deputy county manager in Douglas County, came back to Delta.

La Plata County shares similar issues with other communities on the Western Slope, such as balancing the differences between urbanized and rural areas, Kerby said. There’s also the task of attracting people to the area without losing the rural lifestyle, he said.

In Montrose and Delta, Kerby said, he worked with public lands offices, helped update a county comprehensive plan and supported Montrose’s busy rural airport, all of which will be on his plate in La Plata County.

Hiring the county’s next planning director will be another one of his tasks. Erick Aune, the previous planning director, resigned last year, one day after the county’s volunteer planning board dumped a proposed comprehensive land-use plan.

Kerby said he’ll be looking for a planning director with experience working with urban and rural areas and navigating the boundaries between the two.

Those who worked with Kerby said he is a forward-thinking leader who quietly got projects accomplished by building consensus.

“He engaged all the commissioners in decision making,” Montrose County Commissioner Gary Ellis said.

Kerby focused on bringing regulations up to date and helping the county address the impacts of energy development on county roads and air quality, Ellis said.

“Joe was aware of all those issues and made sure we were staying ahead of them,” he said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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