Mesa County finds ‘tough but fair’ administrator

Board cuts deal to hire leader of parks, recreation in Denver

Mesa County commissioners on Wednesday reached an agreement to hire Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Chantal Unfug as the next county administrator, tapping someone they portrayed as experienced in managing large public organizations and finding efficiencies in government.

Unfug will begin her new job as the county’s first female administrator July 20. She agreed to a package that will pay her $125,000 a year, reimburse her $3,500 for moving expenses and allocate her 18 days of vacation.

She couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The board selected Unfug over three other finalists for the post: Donna Ross, the county’s acting director of regional services; Lynda Boswell of Leavenworth, Kan.; and Roger Kolman of Maricopa, Ariz.

“She certainly was, of all the candidates, our first choice and, hopefully, the best choice,” Commissioner Craig Meis said.

Meis noted Unfug’s experience in city and county administration and the fact she’s operating a department with 700 full-time and part-time employees, which is nearly equal to the size of Mesa County’s government and its 900 employees.

“She brings some good management skill sets as well as being able to work in community partnerships,” Meis said. “She seems like a tough but fair administrator.”

Commissioner Janet Rowland described Unfug as “high energy” and a “big goal-setter.” She said Unfug’s references complimented her as someone who is a strategic thinker and able to organize employees to accomplish goals.

Rowland said Unfug will be able to place a fresh set of eyes on the county and examine how the county can operate more effectively and efficiently. She noted Unfug, in an effort to save money and restructure a department, cut from 16 to eight the number of human-resources employees within Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department. Mesa County has six human-resources employees, by comparison, Rowland said.

At the same time, Rowland said, Unfug “is still supportive of staff. She’s not going to come in with a meat ax and just start cutting.”

Commissioner Steve Acqua-fresca was out of town Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

The commissioners’ efforts to pick a county administrator proceeded more smoothly this time than last fall, when the board tentatively offered the job to Florida executive Michael Freilinger only to fail to reach an agreement on him as its top choice and his salary.

Unfug began working for Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department in 2008 as a senior advisor and moved up quickly. She was appointed a deputy manager this year, then named manager three weeks ago when her predecessor left to take another job. She worked in the administration of then-Mayor John Hickenlooper for five years, working as the director of boards and commissions, special assistant to the mayor and deputy city liaison. As the liaison, she assisted in the planning of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Previous jobs included serving as an economic development specialist and acting director of marketing for the mayor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and director of the Colorado Women’s Business Office under Gov. Roy Romer.

Unfug holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Boston University.


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