When Tim Walsworth graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a degree in journalism, he needed work. Thats when he stumbled onto a job with the United Way.
I didnt know what they did, Walsworth said in his Durango office. Yeah, hed watched the ads during NFL games on Sunday, remembers seeing the giving hand logo and people doing good things.
I really didnt have a clue. But, long story short, I found my passion and my calling.
A chance to direct an office brought him to Durango. And after a decade of overseeing a nonprofit thats often in the publics eye, Walsworths name has become synonymous locally with United Way. So when you hear hes leaving, the news is a jolt. Perhaps youre even angry cmon Tim, how can you do this? Then you learn hes staying in Southwest Colorado because he loves it so much, and you forgive him.
Walsworth officially was appointed the new executive director of Durangos Business Improvement District on Tuesday, when the city of Durango approved its 2013 budget.
It wasnt an easy decision for me because I absolutely love the United Way, the animated Walsworth said during an interview in the United Way conference room.
But after all the blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul he poured into the local organization, Im just ready for something new.
Yes, there will be a slight bump in pay, and as the father of an 8-month-old boy, thats important. But hes also excited to use his skills in a new, challenging way.
What exactly, you may be asking, is the Business Improvement District?
Known as BID, it is a quasi-governmental organization that is financed by a tax on property owners in the district, which includes the downtown area and property up Main Avenue all the way past the Hampton Inn at 3777 Main Ave. The city approves BIDs budget and appoints its directors.
BIDs mission has changed since it was created in 1997 to study the feasibility of a downtown conference center. That center was deemed infeasible, so the district now works to attract and retain businesses, and to market special events. Branding the Historic Downtown has become a central focus of the BID, according to its website.
Walsworths succession to BIDs top job heralds a change. The prior director, Bob Kunkel, concurrently served as the city of Durangos manager of downtown business development. Kunkel remains in that job, and BID now has its very own executive director.
For BID, breaking that connection with the city is kind of like a kid leaving home for the first time, said Karen Barger, BID board member and owner of Seasons Rotisserie & Grill.
She describes Walsworth as inspiring, enthusiastic and a great communicator traits that made Walsworth stick out among nearly 40 very qualified candidates.
Tim Wheeler, owner of Durango Coffee Co. and also a BID board member, said Walsworth is well-connected to many aspects of the community, from government officials to business owners. And his track record at United Way has been stellar.
Hes willing to roll up his sleeves and get things done, Wheeler said.
When Walsworth started, the United Way occupied a tiny, shared office at East Eighth Avenue and College Drive the master bedroom of a former three-bedroom apartment.
Inaccessible. People couldnt find us, Walsworth said. It wasnt an optimal situation, but, he chuckles, It was great cause the rent was really cheap.
Ten years later, United Way of Southwest Colorado is on the ground floor of a much more spacious office in Bodo Industrial Park. The nonprofit has grown its fundraising from $500,000 in Walsworths first year as executive director in 2003 to more than $700,000 in 2011.
Hes proud of the $6.15 million raised during his tenure in the five-county area. Theyre in the ballpark of raising this years goal of $764,000.
He hit the streets hard when he joined Southwest Colorados United Way in 2003, and plans to do it again when he starts with BID on Jan. 2.
In my first 90 to 120 days Im going to literally try to meet with every business and property owner in the district, he said. It might be impossible, but Ill try.
District voters in 2010 chose to continue BID for the next 15 years. Good news for most of the 800 property owners, unwelcome news for the 31 percent who voted against it and dont think their taxes are being put to good use.
Walsworth is ready to tackle the challenge of chatting to those in favor as well as the reluctant BID members.
I want to work for you whether you like us or you dont like us, Walsworth said. And if you dont like us, lets try to start fresh and give me a chance to show that Im for you.
I need to know what you think. Honestly tell me. Its not going to hurt my feelings.
Its an opportunity to make some positive changes, and thats what hes all about. He even stops halfway through making a point to say it himself:
Im a glass-is-half-full kind of guy can you tell?
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.