GJ economics director steps down
Grand Junction’s loss will soon be Jefferson County’s gain.
Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kristi Pollard announced Friday she is leaving the organization and has accepted a job as the executive director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation. Her last day is Oct. 20.
The GJEP board of directors will look at options both in the Grand Valley and nationally for a successor. The hope is to have the job filled by the end of the year, according to Vice Chairman Brian Davidson, who is also the president of St. Mary’s Medical Center. Davidson acknowledged that timeline is optimistic, however, and board members noted the search could take months. It’s possible an interim director will be named in the meantime.
“It’s an exciting position for someone to come into, but finding someone like Kristi is difficult,” Davidson said.
Pollard spent 2 1/2 years as executive director and played a big role in several business deals in the city, including the proposed Las Colonias business park that helped keep Bonsai Design in the Grand Valley, and helped companies like Bonsai secure funding to stay in the area and expand.
She also was involved in pushing the Rural Jump-Start program, an effort to spur the local economy by offering tax credits and networking opportunities to businesses, creating the Regional Air Services Task Force to push to bring in more direct flights to Grand Junction Regional Airport, and recruiting several companies from out of state.
“Kristi has been invaluable, not only in the process we went through in working the with city, but also instrumental in bringing in some great companies here that provide jobs,” said Sarah Shrader, chief administrative officer for Bonsai Design and a GJEP board member. “It’s going to be hard to see her go.”
Pollard cited family reasons for her departure. Pollard’s husband, Tim, is principal for EIS Solutions, a political and governmental consulting firm. Pollard said her husband’s job has drawn him more to the Denver metro area and they had discussed relocating. They have three children.
When Jeffco EDC inquired to see if she was interested in their top job, she said it was too good a position to pass up.
Pollard will commute to Jefferson County until the end of the year, which is when she will move to the Front Range. She said she will still be an advocate for the Western Slope and hopes to be a bridge between the two areas.
“There needs to be better collaboration between the Front Range and the Western Slope,” she said. “I hope I can be a fierce advocate for western Colorado.”
Pollard believes GJEP and Grand Junction are in a great place and praised Grand Junction and Mesa County’s leadership for making so much happen during her tenure as GJEP executive director. “The sun is shining on us right now,” she said.
Grand Valley Power CEO and GJEP board member Tom Walch said he is happy for Pollard, but sorry to see her go. He also noted that it’s important to make this job a destination and not a stepping stone, but that it takes money.
“It’s a great opportunity for Kristi. It speaks well of our organization that a big organization like Jeffco would swoop in. It’s an occupational hazard of the strong organization that GJEP has become,” Walch said. “We have benefited at GJEP so much because of Kristi’s stature.”
Grand Junction City Manager Greg Caton referred to Pollard as the “glue” that held several deals together when things got sticky. He also lauded her ability to be technically sound with economic numbers, but also a strong leader who was adept at building relationships.
“It’s going to be a loss for the community. She was very creative, people liked working with her, she was very successful and should be very proud of the work she accomplished,” Caton said. “She’s very easy to work with. (She’s) talented and people respect her and that’s what makes deals get done.”
Pollard and the GJEP board both emphasized that this isn’t a setback for an organization that had gained steady momentum with Pollard at the helm, but an important opportunity to put the organization in good hands.
“It’s not a pause. It’s not a step down,” Pollard said. “It’s an opportunity to find someone to move the organization forward.”