Meet new Rifle City Manager Jim Nichols
Rifle has found its next city manager. James Nichols, former county manager for Douglas County, Nevada, will assume the position Matt Sturgeon left in the spring.
Nichols was born and raised in Chicopee, Massachusetts and holds degrees in engineering from Northeastern University and the University of Connecticut. He began his engineering career in his home state, and then moved to Washington state, where he began working in public service. His first such job was project engineer for the city of Olympia.
He’s held several management positions in communities of different sizes, including deputy city manager of Las Vegas, a number of roles in smaller Arizona communities and, most recently, county manager of Douglas County, Nevada. Before moving to Rifle, Nichols taught civil engineering at a university in Xiamen, China.
City council heard his oath of office Wednesday. But residents may still want to know, what makes the city manager tick?
Citizen Telegram: Tell me a bit about yourself.
James Nichols: I have been serving as a teacher in China for the past year and a half and really enjoyed my time there. But when I saw this opportunity with Rifle, I knew it was time to come home.
The move has actually been pretty smooth so far. I was able to bring back most of my things with me from China and the rest of my personal belongings are in storage in Nevada. Prior to my interview for the city manager position, I had not been to Rifle before.
CT: What attracted you to our small town of Rifle? What will you do to get to know the community?
JN: I’ve worked for a number of cities, including Las Vegas, and they’ve all been different. My prior cities have varied in population from 7,000 to 600,000. So I wouldn’t characterize my background or experience as being solely related to large communities.
What attracted me to Rifle is the incredible quality of life that is available here as well as the extremely friendly and gracious residents who call Rifle home. I love the natural assets that are in and around the city, as well as our proximity to Denver, where I can check out some professional sports from time to time.
In addition, I was very impressed with everyone who I met during the interview process. I had just flown in from China for the interview and was suffering from major jet lag at the time, and everyone who I encountered was very understanding of my situation and tried to accommodate me in any way possible. I couldn’t ask for a nicer place to settle down in.
CT: What are your goals as the new city manager?
JN: It’s a bit premature to list my goals yet because they will be based on feedback and direction from the council. I’ve just started meeting with our elected officials, but until I hear from all of them, it’s difficult to set any concrete, long-term goals.
However, I am planning to review the organization and our operations and processes to determine where and how things can be improved. I think this is a general expectation of a new city manager in any community. I also want to meet with all of the department heads and city employees in the near future. Since I’m coming from outside the area, I want to help my team feel comfortable with me.
In addition, I am trying to get out and meet as many members of the community as I can. I’ve already attended several local holiday events and will continue to make myself available. Fortunately, Rifle is a very special community with many activities and events that make it stand out and so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet and talk with our residents and business owners while continuing to learn about the city.
CT: Do you plan on taking part in recreation out here? What do you look forward to?
JN: I must admit that I’ve only skied once in my life, back in college, so I don’t see myself taking up that sport at this point. However, I’m an avid bike rider and after I get my bicycle out of storage, I will enjoy some nice rides throughout the area. I also enjoy hiking and will try to explore new trails and paths on the weekends (when the weather improves!). I also enjoy concerts and sporting events, so you’ll see me at those types of activities around town on a regular basis.
As far as what I’m most looking forward to, you have to remember that my perspective is a bit different from most. I’ve spent the past year and a half overseas where I was immersed in a different culture, different food and different language. I loved my time in China and made many wonderful friends there – I don’t regret the experience for a second. But being in Rifle gives me the opportunity to enjoy many of the things that we may all take for granted as part of our daily lives. Whether it be hot water out of my faucets, driving a car or a comfortable bed, having access to many of our creature comforts will make life much easier.
When it comes to Rifle specifically, I think I am most excited to meet the people of our community. It’s the people who make a city special and unique, and since I was made to feel so welcome during my initial visit, I knew that our residents would only accentuate our incredible community.
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Home values in western Garfield County are way up, according to tax assessors. That will contribute to a higher tax bill next year.