Another top post changing in Mesa County


County turnover

The resignation of Assistant County Administrator Stefani Conley marks at least the sixth upper-management employee to leave the county in the past year. A look at the employees and when and why they left:

• Bob Edmiston, Waste Management Division director: fired May 2010

• Jon Peacock, county administrator:  resigned July 2010

• Treva Houck, Family and Childrens’ Services Division director: fired in January

• Kurt Larsen, planning and economic development director: laid off in March

• Mark Reitz, purchasing and risk management director: fired in April

• Stefani Conley, assistant county administrator: resignation effective June 2

Assistant Mesa County Administrator Stefani Conley will leave her post at the beginning of next month, joining a growing list of county department heads who have resigned or have been terminated in the past year.

Conley, the assistant administrator since 2006, submitted a letter of resignation to interim Administrator Tom Papin earlier this month. Her last day on the job will be June 2.

She said she recently made the decision to resign to pursue other job opportunities. She declined to go into specifics, saying she wouldn’t be comfortable talking about them.

“I gave this decision a lot of serious thought. This is not a decision I made lightly,” she said in an interview Friday. “I have worked with many dedicated, hard-working people here who are dedicated to the citizens. It was a difficult decision for me, but in the end I think it’s a good decision for me.”

Before coming to work for the county, Conley worked in health care and human resources in positions with Community Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and Western Healthcare Alliance.

Conley served as acting county administrator for six months after Administrator Jon Peacock resigned last summer and navigated the county through a difficult financial period in which officials trimmed millions of dollars from the county’s budget. At one point,  she was a finalist for the county administrator job before pulling her name from consideration, saying she would benefit from additional experience as the assistant county administrator.

As the assistant administrator, Conley oversaw the county’s Information Technology Department when an employee inadvertently posted on an unsecured server thousands of internal Sheriff’s Department records from the past 20 years.

The massive data breach left county officials scrambling to determine who may have accessed the sensitive information and notify people whose personal data was released to be on the lookout for fraud and identity theft. The employee who posted the records no longer works for the county.

Conley said her resignation isn’t tied to that incident.

“It doesn’t have any correlation to that at all,” she said.

Conley said projects she is proud of during her tenure include obtaining a federal grant to help repair a failing domestic water system in the Rosevale neighborhood and organizing an annual leadership program for employees with the county, city of Grand Junction and Hilltop Community Resources.

Commissioner Janet Rowland called Conley a “ball of fire” and a “hard worker,” and she and Commissioner Craig Meis said they appreciated Conley’s private-sector background.

Both said they aren’t concerned by a string of resignations and firings within the county’s upper-management levels in the last year.

“I don’t see it as a problem or that it points to any other challenges,” Rowland said. “I think it’s pretty normal. I think we have a good blend of some new blood and some solid staff that have been there for a while.”

Meis said it’s healthy to bring in “new folks, new values, new vision.”

“I guarantee the private sector is feeling a lot more stress and strain than the county” in terms of employee turnover, he said.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, though, said it’s a concern to him when “every one of our valued employees leaves the organization.”

Commissioners said they will let incoming Administrator Chantal Unfug decide whether or how to fill the assistant administrator position. Unfug will start in July.


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