Contentious county too much for Montrose manager; he bows out

Rick Eckert

Nearly twelve months of “constant, non-stop contention, with no end in sight” was enough for Montrose County Manager Rick Eckert.

In great detail and drawing from a wide swath of political influences, the soon-to-be-former executive cited a poisonous atmosphere in Montrose County he claimed surpassed anything he’s experienced in previous jobs.

“Sadly, our county has the reputation of being the most contentious county in the state of Colorado, without exception,” he wrote.

“I have dealt with issues that were more controversial in nature in other positions that I have held, but never as many as we seem to have, and never as many at the same time,” Eckert wrote in a nearly three-page resignation letter dated April 23. County officials released the letter Friday.

Eckert will officially resign May 16. Montrose County officials said he is on vacation until May 11. Montrose County Facilities Manager Ken Norris will take over on an interim basis as county manager after Eckert leaves.

In his letter — after leaning on a quote by former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey lamenting that people are “losing sight of civility in government and politics” — Eckert compared the atmosphere surrounding two recent public issues as evidence.

He contrasted the relatively benign reaction to a recent sales-tax increase, voted in to fund a new recreation center, with the uproar that has swirled around inviting a second fixed-base operator into Montrose Regional Airport.

“The tone and demeanor of the majority of the speakers at the last FBO public hearing is a perfect example” of the loss of civility McGreevey described, Eckert wrote.

Other parts of the letter quote Franklin Roosevelt — “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us ...” — as well as Oliver Cromwell.

Eckert called Montrose a “wonderful place in which to live,” but he expressed fear that Montrose’s acrimonious reputation will hurt it with businesses that may want to move there.

“With the highest unemployment rate in the state, we need to make sure that we project a positive image to prospective businesses,” Eckert wrote.

He concluded that the contentious culture in Montrose County “is not physically sustainable” and that “it is neither normal nor healthy.”

“My hope for the county is that civility in the public arena will be restored, and that the next manager will find and experience the real Montrose County …,” he wrote.

He called the employees of the county “the best” he’s worked with in his career.

The three Montrose County commissioners — David White, Gary Ellis and Ron Henderson, who oversee the position of county manager and are the ones addressed in the letter — were not made available for comment Friday.


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