Some 500 council meetingslater, Copp bids city adieu
By Greg MasséPost Independent StaffAfter more than 20 years as city manager for Glenwood Springs, Mike Copp is saying goodbye. The Pueblo native has retired from the city and will be moving to California where his wife, Heather Copp, is employed as chief financial officer for the Los Angeles-based Southern California Association of Governments. “It’s been a good run and 20 years has gone by fast,” he said. “It’s bizarre – I feel like I just got here,” he said. While excited about the change, Copp said he’ll always have fond memories of Glenwood and he plans to eventually retire here. “This is eventually where we want to live,” he said. After attending more than 500 City Council meetings, Copp attended his last one on Thursday night. He was given a round of applause for his long service to the city, then he spoke. “It’s gone fast and I will miss it. But my first Thursday night I’ll probably sit back, watch some football, drink a few beers and say, ‘This isn’t so bad,'” he said. While driving to his hometown of Pueblo on Friday, Copp shared some memories from the past 20 years and a few thoughts on what the future holds for Glenwood Springs. “There have been several real big changes. The population doubled, the road system is bigger, there are more than twice as many city employees and the budget went from $11 million to $34 million,” he said. “We also added the landfill and broadband enterprises.”But Copp figures the biggest change for the better in Glenwood Springs since he took the job as city manager is the upgrades that were added to the city’s emergency services. “When I first came here, there was one full-time firefighter and one full-time ambulance person,” he said. If someone had a heart attack in the middle of the night, it often would be a while before the ambulance could get to the victim. “Now we have full (emergency medical technician) services, 24-7, and we should be able to be there within three to five minutes of a call,” he said. Copp also said that if he were to apply for the job of city manager today with the relatively small amount of experience he had back in 1984, “I wouldn’t have hired me.””The government has gone from the simple day-to-day to being a lot more complicated,” he said. “The way we operate now, it would have been a little bit harder to come in.”Back in Copp’s early days as city manager, he said, the oil shale bust was still affecting the economy of the city. That’s when a group of citizens calling themselves Community on the Move began lobbying for sales tax increases to be used for civic improvements. That money has funded two pedestrian bridges, the bicycle trails, the Community Center, the new City Hall, the Municipal Operations Center, as well as other projects throughout the city. Copp said he’s proud of how the city looks today. “Just the overall appearance of Glenwood,” he said. There were some bad times, like the 1994 Storm King Fire, when 14 firefighters died; the 1985 Rocky Mountain Natural Gas building explosion, in which 12 people died, and the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, which destroyed 29 homes. But Copp said those types of things are out of anyone’s control. One project he regrets never getting done is a municipal golf course. “That was a disappointment for me personally, but the voters voted it down,” said Copp, himself an avid golfer. Copp’s longevity as a city manager was extremely unusual. For a job that normally turns over every three to five years, Copp made his Glenwood Springs job into a career. “Most of it was luck,” he said. “I always had good councils and I always had good people work for me.”But there is one piece of advice he passed along. “Don’t get bigger than your council. A lot of managers try to get bigger than their councils. You can advise and you can lead, but you can’t go to the forefront with it,” he said. As for the future, Copp said Glenwood is in fine shape. “We’ll be fine. The Meadows project not only brings in sales taxes, but it gives options,” he said. “Eventually it will make other businesses stronger.”Copp foresees the eventual completion of the Highway 82 relocation, and “downtown continuing to be dynamic” and getting back to its small-town character once the highway is moved. He also envisions a theater, parking structures and a new park at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. “I look for Glenwood to evolve and still be a great place to live,” he said. He said he’s also leaving a solid core of workers to run the city. “I think the morale is great,” he said. “I think we’ve got a real good core and I think (incoming city manager) Jeff (Hecksel) will have a real good group to work with.”Copp said Hecksel’s biggest challenge will be following him – then laughed. On a more serious note, he said Hecksel will have to deal with transportation issues and just take things as they come. “It’s just keeping financials in order. It’s a great community and there’s so many things going on. They’ll keep him busy,” he said.After spending a few more days in Glenwood this week, Copp will be heading down to Pasadena, Calif., to join his wife. “I hope to take some time off,” he said. “I’ll just kind of play it by ear and see what happens.”Copp will be living about 10 minutes away from a 36-hole golf course that’s playable year-round. “I plan to come back and visit – mostly in the summer. We’re keeping our house,” he said. But as he said, the couple hopes to eventually make it back to Glenwood. “This is eventually where we want to live. We love it. It’s home.”Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. email@example.comMike Copp’s 20 years, by the numbers:A look at statistics compiled by Mike Copp during two decades as Glenwood Springs’ city manager:• Oversaw spending of approximately $450 million in city money • Attended more than 500 City Council meetings• Was city manager through seven mayors and 50 City Council members• Oversaw the city’s budget as it grew from $11 million to $34 million• Saw the population expand from 4,400 to 8,200 people• Expanded city job base from 55 to 165• Was on his fourth police chief, third fire chief, fourth city attorney, fourth planning director• Was city manager for 1/6 of the city’s entire 119-year existence
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