La Plata County has hired two new directors to lead its general services and planning departments.
Damian Peduto will begin as the county’s new planning director Oct. 1 and Mark McKibben began as the county’s director of general services July 23.
Peduto spent more than 17 years working in planning in Florida. Most recently, he was the director of planning and zoning for the Town of Juno Beach, Fla.
Though he expects planning challenges and issues here to be different from Florida, Peduto said his experience working in both a rural county and a municipality has prepared him for the La Plata County job.
Juno Beach also has an active tourism component, which makes it similar to this area, County Manger Joe Kerby said.
All things being equal, the county would have liked to hire a candidate with experience in the West, but Peduto’s qualifications, including his direct experience and leadership skills, put him above and beyond other candidates, Kerby said.
The county received 90 applications for the position, Human Resources Director Kelli Ganevsky said. The majority of applicants came from the eastern and southern parts of the country.
Many people are drawn to the West because of the quality of life here, interim Planning Director Gary Suiter said. That also means it is harder to recruit from the West if someone already has a good job here, he said.
The top candidates for the planning job went through a telephone interview and an in-person interview with a panel of county employees, plus Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, and Mike Russell, head of Russell Planning and Engineering.
The county has sought a permanent planning director since December when Erick Aune resigned from the position one day after the county’s volunteer Planning Commission dumped a proposed comprehensive plan that had cost $700,000 and two years of work by county staff members and the community.
In January, county commissioners appointed Suiter, a Carbondale-based consultant, to the interim position until they could find Aune’s permanent replacement.
Peduto will come into the position with a full plate of ongoing issues, including an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Durango and the county, land-use code amendments and a development plan for the Grandview area, Suiter said.
The county released a news release about Peduto’s hire Aug. 31, 10 days after he accepted the position. Kerby said that process should have been more timely.
The release also announced McKibben’s hiring. He replaces Al Thye, who retired earlier this summer.
McKibben oversaw facilities, transportation and food service for the Duneland School Corp. in Chesterton, Ind., for 19 years. Before that he worked at the Duneland YMCA and for the Indiana Division of State Parks.
He will take over the task of creating a facilities master plan that includes the current state of the county’s buildings and its future needs, Kerby said. That process is expected to be completed in the next month or two, he said.