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Public works director resigns

Employee says too many politics in county government

Josh Nichols

Rich Anderson, Moffat County public works director since June, turned in a letter of resignation to the commissioner’s office last Thursday.

But the decision to do so, he said, was already made Nov. 5 — the day local voters elected Darryl Steele as their new Moffat County commissioner.

“In his campaign Darryl said his main issue was eliminating my position,” Anderson said Friday, on his way to pick up boxes for his move out of town. “When he was elected I decided I would be better off elsewhere.”

When Anderson stepped into his new position in June with long term plans of buying a home and settling in Craig, he said he never expected what would happen next.

He became the main topic in Steele’s campaign, which was a promise to cut down on “upper-level bureaucracy” in Moffat County government, starting with the recently hired public works position.

“I didn’t have a clue that I would be a part of a campaign,” he said, reflecting back on his first days on the job. “I was caught off guard that my being here would be such a big deal.”

When the campaign began to get heated, and his name began appearing repeatedly in the newspaper, Anderson said he talked to the current county commissioners, and scheduled a meeting with Steele, the man promising to work to eliminate Anderson’s position if elected.

“Two commissioners have indicated that I would be safe during the next two years,” he said of Moffat County commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton. “But I sat across the desk from Darryl and he told me to vote for Jean (Stetson) because if he was elected he was going to get rid of my position.”

While any action taken by the county requires a majority vote of at least 2-1, Anderson said he did not like the idea of not knowing what would happen with possible new representation on the board in two years.

“The two commissioners told me they would protect me for two years,” he said. “But I did not want to put all of my energy into a program that would be reversed in two years. My position with a new commission was uncertain and I had an opportunity that I chose to take.”

That opportunity is in Ephraim, Utah, a town of 6,000, where Anderson has been hired as city manager.

The town’s local newspaper had already contacted him to ask him questions about his new position, Anderson said Friday.

Finding a new job was not difficult for Anderson, an 18-year employee of Aerospace and former environmental director for a six-county agency.

“I have marketable skills,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to find a job.”

While being excited about his new job, Anderson said he’ll miss his job in Moffat County — but not the politics.

“I’ve never seen this tone anywhere,” he said. “I haven’t seen county politics as intense as they are here in Craig.”

And the politics extended farther than the work place, he said.

“My wife and I have been verbally attacked in the community,” he said. “People have said ‘Why did you come? We didn’t need you. The county was getting along fine without you.'”

Anderson said he thought he was unfairly targeted in the campaign.

“Not once did (Steele) sit down with me and ask me what my goals were and what I hoped to accomplish,” he said. “It’s arbitrary because he didn’t even come talk to me. I held a meeting with him at my request where I asked him what his goals were. He never asked me what mine were.”

Contrary to Steele’s campaign, in which he said there are several unneeded positions in Moffat County government, Anderson said he thought Moffat County was moving in the right direction.

“I don’t think the county is top heavy at all,” he said. “The county has added key staff to keep it moving forward in the future. They have a good core set of people who have the county’s best interests in mind.”

These people need to be utilized and allowed to do their jobs for the better of Moffat County, he said.

“You need to allow some consistency or the county will stay in a maintenance mode,” he said. “If you’re not continually progressing you’re moving backward.”

People should not be so quick to criticize, he said.

“The people who are criticizing really need to find out what these people are doing before they criticize,” he said.

Commissioner Raftopoulos said the county is losing a good employee, and said the commission will discuss in its next meeting on Dec. 30 what it wants to do to replace him.

“We’re very disappointed that he decided to resign,” she said. “We will have a discussion on what we’re going to do. Our plan is to fill the position.”

Raftopoulos said she understood Anderson’s decision to move on.

“Rich was a great asset to our county and to our community,” she said. “He just felt that he did not have any job security and an opportunity came up for him.”

Raftopoulos said the public works position was created because of a need expressed by Moffat County employees.

“A task force said we need the position to oversee employees in Moffat County,” she said. “In order to be more efficient we thought we had to have this position.”

Commissioner Hampton agreed with his fellow commissioner.

“I’m very disappointed he resigned,” Hampton said. “I think he brought a lot of experience and common sense to Moffat County government.”

But Hampton said he understood why Anderson resigned.

“We’re talking about a man who is toward the end of his working career,” Hampton said.

He has about seven to 10 years of working left and he wants to use it well, he said.

“He does not want to lose control of everything he has implemented in two years,” he said.

Hampton agreed that Anderson’s position should be filled.

But Steele said he hopes he is in office before the commissioners make a decision.

“That will give me an opportunity to try and talk them out of it,” he said.

He said it was true that he told Anderson that if elected, he would work to eliminate his position.

“I had targeted that as something I didn’t think we needed or could afford,” Steele said. “I would hope the present board does not try to fill the position before I get in office.”

Steele said he has a county re-organization plan that he intends to present on Jan. 14, the day he is sworn into office.

How to handle the public works director position will be one of the items he addresses in that plan, he said.

Although he had long-term goals in his job and his life in Moffat County, Anderson said he looked forward to his new job in Utah.

“It was a great job and I thought it had great potential and I thoroughly enjoyed the people I worked with,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed working with the commission. But I don’t want to put two years of my effort into something that won’t last, and I have a better opportunity somewhere else.”

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at jnichols@craigdailypress.com.


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