Gregg Boysen, the city of Durango’s top engineer, had a hand in almost every city building project completed from the day he started 26 years ago to the day he retired, Jan. 8.
“Anything built in the last 26 years, he has had a role in. He tried to retire twice before, and we didn’t let him,” said Kevin Hall, assistant city manager.
Visitors and locals will recognize Boysen’s work: He was the lead project manager on the recreation center, library, transit center, Chapman Hill Ice Rink and ski hill, downtown sidewalks, the skate park, Animas River Trail bridges and underpasses ... the list goes on.
By Wednesday, Boysen, 65, was hitting the slopes for some weekday skiing, city staff members said.
Boysen, however, is not one to choose the spotlight. After several attempts, The Durango Herald was unable to reach him for an interview.
“Yeah, he’s like that,” said Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation, with a laugh.
“I had a hard time convincing him that we should do something for his retirement,” said Keith Dougherty, a civil engineer with the city. Dougherty took on the role of interim city engineer after Boysen’s departure.
As city engineer, Boysen was in constant communication with staff members, private and commercial developers, architects, contractors and other stakeholders.
He was responsible for making sure projects were built correctly and within budget. That includes large developments such as Three Springs, Twin Buttes and SkyRidge subdivisions, which came online during his tenure, Metz said.
“Gregg was that type of individual who was always doing the right thing for the right reasons,” said Metz, who has known Boysen for 25 years. “He was very well-respected as a city employee.”
Durango residents might have seen Boysen at City Council meetings explaining the engineering behind stop signs, roadway projects and speed limits.
He was about to retire as the city started the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility project, but he stuck around to help, Hall said.
“It’s a great deal of integrity. He could have just walked away without caring,” Hall said. “He’s been with the city for so many years, and he knew the city needed someone inside to make that project successful. That speaks volumes about his character.”
Colleagues described him as detail-oriented and mild-mannered with a knack for problem-solving solutions when people disagreed.
When the engineering recommendation differed from what the community wanted to see, Boysen acted tactfully, calmly and in the interest of the public.
“That wasn’t really an engineering thing,” Dougherty said. “That might probably be one of the best things that I learned from him.”
With decades of institutional knowledge, city staff members often relied on Boysen as the “go-to guy” for questions about private developments, city sewer or water projects, traffic studies – anything to do with engineering.
Boysen provided a model for how to manage a project well, Metz said.
In 2017, the engineering team began to prepare for the transition that would come after Boysen’s retirement. But in previous years, they could still call him weekly or daily if they needed advice, Dougherty said.
“Every one of the other staff members say that, now that he’s really gone, it kind of feels like we’re driving without our seat belt,” he said.
For Dougherty, Boysen was his “engineering support” and a mentor – someone with whom he hopes to hit the slopes or go on dog walks with in the future.
“I depended on him because he had so much institutional knowledge,” Dougherty said. “There’s so much stuff I’ve learned from him in the last couple of years. I don’t know if I could pick out one or two things.”
In his last days on the job, city staff members made Boysen a book featuring some of his big projects with photos and quotes about him. They gathered people who worked with him on a video call to swap stories about his career.
“I don’t think people realize how much dedication he put in,” Dougherty said. “It was fun looking back on what he did for the city. I think the city as a whole will miss him, not just us.”