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Alas, La Plata County has a surveyor – the same person as before

Steve McCormack didn’t appear on November ballot, but was hired for the position anyway
Steve McCormack was appointed to serve as La Plata County surveyor Tuesday and was sworn in by La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

After no names appeared on the ballot for the position of La Plata County surveyor, La Plata County commissioners on Tuesday selected a candidate: the previous County Surveyor Steve McCormack.

McCormack’s term ended Jan. 9, at which point county commissioners could begin interviewing candidates.

McCormack held the often-overlooked position from 1986 to 1994, finished his successor’s term in 1996, was reappointed by commissioners in 2015 when the previous surveyor died and then won reelection in 2016 and 2018.

The process was replete with minor hiccups, which the surveyor previously called “just a bad series of coincidences.”

McCormack announced his intention to seek reelection at a meeting of the Southwest chapter of the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado. As a result, no one from the close-knit community of professionals challenged him.

But after changing his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, McCormack was required to collect 389 signatures to appear on the ballot. Health issues occurred suddenly and prevented him from doing this – but at that point, it was too late for someone else to declare candidacy.

“I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to do it,” he said in November.

When the county announced it was seeking candidates for the role in November, McCormack seemed to harbor little enthusiasm for serving again in the position.

The position is part-time – McCormack said he spends about four hours per week on the job. The surveyor’s duties include representing the county in boundary disputes; notifying the county attorney of any unsettled boundary disputes or boundary discrepancies; and other survey-related duties as directed by county commissioners.

However, on the last possible day, McCormack decided to toss his resume into the ring once again. Unbeknownst to him, two other surveyors had stepped up and volunteered for the role, one of whom is a longtime friend of McCormack’s.

“I reached out to him after I found out that he had applied and he laughed and he said, ‘Well, I’ve already told them that if you applied I wouldn’t do it,’” McCormack said.

Now that commissioners have made their selection, McCormack said he is “content” to hold the position again.

“During the interview, the board was very receptive to some changes to the office that I had suggested,” he said. “I feel like the office is underutilized and it’s due in large part, I think, because the commissioners are just unsure as to what the county surveyor does do or should do. We had a very productive conversation about how the board could utilize the office going forward, and they were very receptive to all of those ideas.”

Specifically, McCormack said he recommended that the surveyor be consulted any time the county considers purchasing property and is optimistic that this change will come to fruition.

Steve McCormack did not appear on the ballot in November, but La Plata County commissioners hired appointed him to serve as the county surveyor. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Currently, the planning department generally contracts survey plat reviews out to a local consulting firm, McCormack said. He thought it would be beneficial for the surveyor to conduct these reviews so that the job stays in the hands of a local official going forward.

“My opinion is that that is a function that should be carried out by the Office of the County Surveyor,” he said.

Commissioner Marsha Porter-Norton said she is glad to have McCormack in the role again and that discussions regarding any potential changes to the surveyor’s duties would take place soon.

McCormack will serve a two-year term ending in January 2025, after the next general election.