Board eyes fill-in for top job at county

Col. Tom Fisher

To say the past couple of days have been a whirlwind for Lt. Col. Tom Fisher would be an understatement.

Fisher was approached Tuesday morning by Mesa County commissioners to take on the job of interim county administrator, not long after what commissioners called a resignation by Chantal Unfug, who held the job since July 2011.

In a statement released late Tuesday, commissioners said they and Unfug had reached a “mutual agreement” to part ways.

On Wednesday, Fisher — who had been the county’s internal services manager for the past six months, and is alternately a brigade commander with the Utah National Guard — was headed to the Senior Leaders Conference of the National Guard in Little Rock, Ark.

And on Sunday, he’s set to be promoted to full colonel with his unit in Utah.

“There’s just a few things going on in my life right now,” Fisher said, amusingly, on Wednesday.

The brief time that he’s spent as interim county administrator has been used to catch his breath mostly, it seems.

“Since I’ve been at this all of about 24 hours, I am just kind of catching up with everything that is going on,” he said. “At this point, I have to obviously expand my scope, take myself up to (the administrator) level, and understand things from that perspective.”

Fisher said he’ll be back in Mesa County on Monday, when he expects to talk more with the board about its expectations of his interim term. He said with two new members of the board — Rose Pugliese and John Justman were seated Jan. 8 alongside Steve Acquafresca — he’s still building relationships at this point.

“I would say that the relationship is new, and we’re establishing what it is,” Fisher said of the 2013 board.

Unfug’s abrupt departure seems to have caught many off guard.

“I think any time that these kinds of changes happen, they’re a surprise, and I think the (Mesa County) organization is probably feeling that way,” Fisher said.

New Commissioner John Justman expressed a lot of confidence in Fisher on Wednesday.

“He’s been with the county a long time, and … I think about his leadership within the county, I think he’s well-respected for that,” Justman said.

Justman said the decision to reach an agreement with Unfug on her departure was unanimous among the board, and that no executive session was held among the three commissioners to discuss the personnel decision.

While Fisher is expected to serve in the interim administrator role for 60 to 90 days, Justman said, the specific process about how to choose a permanent replacement for Unfug still has not been decided.

Fisher said he has yet to decide if he’ll put his hat in the ring for the permanent administrator job.

“That’s not a decision I take lightly, nor do I make that singularly myself. There’s a family that’s involved, and we haven’t had a lot of time to discuss that yet,” Fisher said.

Prefacing his comments by saying he does not want to preclude anybody from applying for the permanent county administrator job, Justman said he likes that Fisher “knows the system and how it works.”

“From previous experiences in my life, I like promoting people from within the organization, if that’s possible,” Justman said.


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