Program cuts factor in official’s departure

The Mesa County Commission and the head of its Human Services Department agreed to part ways this week when it became clear that Len Stewart was uncomfortable making cuts to the county’s child-welfare program, Commissioner Janet Rowland said Thursday.

Stewart and the commissioners agreed it was time for his tenure at the department to end, Rowland said.

One task remaining to be completed is the reduction of about $1.5 million from child-welfare programs.

“I didn’t think he was looking forward to doing that,” Rowland said.

The Human Services Department has a budget of more than $20 million. Over the last three years, the county has pared $2.5 million to $3 million from the agency overall, Rowland said.

The last cuts have to be made to child welfare, “and it has to be done in a way that protects children,” Rowland said.

The cuts are difficult in human terms, but also mathematically because much of the county’s contributions are matches of 20 percent to 80 percent from the federal and state governments, Rowland said.

The parting was amicable, with the commissioners offering to write Stewart a letter of recommendation, Rowland said.

“We’re glad we hired Len,” Rowland said, citing his work founding the Bridges out of Poverty initiative and help with a housing initiative.

As the time for reductions approached, though, Stewart told the commission “it was time for him to move on,” Rowland said, “and we agreed.”

Stewart was in Denver on Thursday working with the transition team for Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper, Rowland said.


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