Family-driven departures spur changes at City Hall

Ryan Hoffman

Recently announced departures from several leadership positions at City Hall are unfortunate but do not indicate bigger issues among city employees, City Manager Matt Sturgeon said.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 3, Rifle Police Chief John Dyer informed his officers and then City Council that he is stepping down at the end of the month — one day shy of his official four year anniversary since taking the job as Rifle’s top cop.

The decision to leave, he said, is based on and his wife’s desire to be closer to their daughters.

“It’s purely family and personal reasons, because professionally I couldn’t have it better than I do here,” Dyer said in an interview.

And Friday was the last official full-time day for Rifle Public Works Superintendent Bobby O’Dell, as well as for Don Chaney, cultural and special events manager whose responsibilities included managing the New Ute Events Center.

O’Dell, who was recognized by council Aug. 3 for eight years of service, is moving to Arizona, where his wife has accepted a job offer. He said that he does not currently have a job lined up.

Chaney, who held his position since it was created around the opening of the Ute in 2014, is working full time for KMTS — a country music radio station based in Glenwood Springs. Chaney is no stranger to the world of radio; having worked in some form or another for 25 years. He has been working for KMTS part time for several years, he said.

“Events and radio are the two businesses that are second nature for me.”

The decision to leave his full-time position with the city, which Chaney said was one of the best employers he has ever worked for, was difficult.

Ultimately, though, it came down to wanting to spend more time with his teenage son — something that was difficult with the events manager job, which requires working many weekends.

In an email, Sturgeon noted each of the three is leaving for “personal reasons that do not revolve around anything within the city organization.”

“Life happens, and you just take it in stride,” Sturgeon said. “The people leaving are very good at what they do, and they will be missed. We owe each of them a debt of gratitude. Each stepped in to different and difficult situations. … Each did an admirable job and should leave extremely proud of the contribution they made to the community. … We wish each of them nothing but the best.”

In terms of filling the positions, the city is approaching each differently.

Council gave its blessing Aug. 3 allowing Sturgeon to retain Fred Rainguet, a private consultant, to lead the search process. Rainguet oversaw the search process that resulted in Dyer’s hiring in 2012.

Sturgeon said the city hopes to extend an offer to a new chief — a vital position in city government — later this year, with a likely official start date around the first of the year. The chief’s starting salary is in the lower $90,000 range.

He and the chief will be meeting in the next several weeks to discuss appointment of an interim chief from within the department.

“We are in a good position because the police department, from top to bottom, is filled with highly competent, dedicated staff that are very capable of doing their jobs while we seek out the next chief of police,” Sturgeon said. “I’m confident chief Dyer is leaving the city in a safe and steady position as it relates to law enforcement within the city of Rifle.”

The public works superintendent will be consolidated along with another position into the role of public works director, which will be filled by Rick Barth, currently the city engineer.

The engineer position was created around 2004 to assist a public works director, who also served as the utilities director at the time. Increased development activity from 2004 to 2008 led to the splitting of responsibilities, with a separate utilities director, public works superintendent and city engineer, the last of which is being vacated.

“Current development activity and skill sets amongst staff allow for this reorganization to occur,” Sturgeon said, while repeating high praise for the work O’Dell did during his tenure with the city.

“Bobby O’Dell is delivering a first rate operations and maintenance department to the public works director. The operations and maintenance staff is top notch and will not miss a beat with this transition. Rick Barth is a highly qualified engineer who has strong relationships with (the Colorado Department of Transportation), Garfield County and other city partners. I know Rick is excited by this new challenge, and I anticipate there will be no noticeable change in operations.”

As for the special events and Ute manager position, Sturgeon said the city hopes to fill that position as soon as possible.

Tom Whitmore, Rifle parks and recreation director, said he is meeting with Chaney and recreation staff to discuss delegating responsibilities in the meantime. Chaney is still staying on part time to, among other tasks, help book talent.

“We also have dedicated volunteers who always ‘show up’ with their A game to ensure Ute events are first rate,” Sturgeon said. “We are investigating whether to hire an interim coordinator until we fill the post permanently through an application process.”

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