Cortez City Manager Shane Hale announced Friday he plans to resign from his position this spring.
Hale said he has accepted a position as town manager in Windsor, a town near Greeley, after the offer was finalized Friday morning. He will begin his new job in June, and plans to spend the intervening months helping the city find a new manager. The Cortez City Council plans to discuss its next steps during a workshop before the meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s not easy to leave this place,” Hale said. “I really love Cortez. I’ve worked with a great council and a great staff.”
Hale started his job as city manager in Cortez in late 2011, after more than seven years in Grand Lake, a Colorado mountain town with a permanent population of fewer than 500.
During his time in Cortez, he oversaw several large-scale efforts to improve Main Street and the central business district, including the Heart and Soul Community long-range planning project that started in 2012. A two-year planning grant from the Orton Family Foundation enabled the city to create project goals that eventually led to the new gateway signs at the entrances to the city, more coordinated efforts to attract volunteers to town through the Welcome Center and several city beautification projects. Some of the goals the city set during the Heart and Soul planning process are still being realized this year, such as the upcoming land-use code update and the construction of medians on Main Street.
Hale said his biggest regret in leaving Cortez is that he won’t be able to see the city’s fiber-optic project completed. As a member of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Montezuma County group Connect 4, he spent much of his time as manager trying to make high-speed internet more accessible for Cortez residents. Although the city has installed fiber optics in much of the downtown area, allowing most businesses access to broadband speeds, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to provide the same level of service to residential areas.
“I would have liked to get that done before I left,” he said. “It would have been great to get fiber to the home and address that need, because I think it really is important, but we’ll let the next person work on it.”
Hale said he took the Windsor position because he saw it as “a great opportunity” for himself and his family. The Northeastern Colorado town is home to almost 30,000 people, according to its website, and is located on the edge of the Front Range metropolitan area. Hale said he believes it will be a good place to raise his two children, and he’s excited about the chance to work in a growing community that still has a small-town atmosphere.
Mayor Karen Sheek, who joined the City Council shortly after Hale was hired, said she’s enjoyed working with him over the past 6½ years.
“We’ve always had a great staff at the city, and a good council that works together, but all those ingredients need a good leader,” she said. “Shane is a good leader.”
Although she said she’s sorry to see him leave, she wished him the best in his new position.
The next few weeks will present a new challenge for the council. The only current council member who was serving when Hale was hired is Bob Archibeque, whose term ends in April, so most of the new council is inexperienced when it comes to hiring a city manager. Hale included a booklet called “How to Hire a Local Government Administrator” in the council’s workshop packet for Tuesday, and he plans to ask the council to schedule a special meeting to discuss the transition in more detail. The first step will be to appoint an interim administrator who can take over Hale’s duties immediately when he leaves.
Sheek said she and the rest of the council have a lot to learn, but she said she believes the transition will be “an exciting time,” coming right after an election that could result in as many as five new members on the Council.
Hale said he plans to take the lessons he learned from working in Cortez with him to his next position. He particularly thanked Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane and Public Works Director Phil Johnson for teaching him about how their departments work.
“I’ve learned more from city staff than I could have ever taught them,” he said.
Hale said his last day on the job will likely be in May, allowing time for his family to move to Windsor, but he said he and the council haven’t yet decided on a precise date.