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City manager search in final stretch

Posted: Friday, Apr 5th, 2013

Alamosa city manger finalist Donna Wehe of Alamosa, left, visits with Royce and Tammy Brubacher during a reception Thursday night for the top candidates. Alamosa city manager finalist Don Van Wormer, left, visits with Juan Altamirano, center, and David Wehe, right. Alamosa City Councilor Marcia Tuggle is shown behind them Courier photos by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Alamosa will soon have a new city manager.

The city council will hold interviews today with the five top candidates for the position vacated earlier this year by six-year Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski.

“This is the most important decision we can make,” said Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers. “We are going to take this process very seriously.”

Area residents had an opportunity to meet the finalists last night during a reception at city hall. Two of the candidates — Donna Wehe of Alamosa and Don Van Wormer of Monte Vista — are local residents. The other three finalists are Heather Brooks of Cape Girardeau, Mo., and originally of Lamar; Barry Cook of Green River, Wyo.; and Douglas Gerber of Goodland, Kan.

A sixth finalist, Kevin Crosson, originally from La Junta, withdrew from the selection process.

Last night the finalists talked about their backgrounds and why they were interested in the Alamosa vacancy.

Brooks said she and her family wanted to come back to Colorado. She said she was looking for a small- to medium-sized stand-alone community where she and her family could feel at home.

Cook said Alamosa is a progressive community moving forward, “and I want to be part of that.” He said he believed he would be a good fit and had a strong passion for local government.

Gerber said before coming here for the interview, he was not sure why he wanted to be here except that it looked like a nice place from his research and the internet. After driving into the San Luis Valley with the sun setting and taking the city tour on Thursday when he met the wonderful staff, “I am positive it is the kind of place we would want to be, where I could be successful helping raise a successful family and also have some success helping the city grow and prosper.”

Wehe, who has lived her entire adult life here, said she believed this would be a job in which she could use her skills such as budgeting and communicating.

“It’s such a great community to be proud to be from,” she said.

Van Wormer, Monte Vista’s city manager for nine years, said, “After nine years in Monte Vista I have accomplished a lot of things and I am looking for new opportunities and new challenges. Seeing what has gone on here in the last few years there’s been wonderful things going on, great improvements to the community in all aspects, and I want to be a part of that.”

He added he would be 16 miles closer to Starbucks.

More about the finalists:

• Heather Brooks and her husband, a school teacher, grew up in Lamar. They have two young children. Brooks went to undergraduate school in Greeley and worked for the cities of Greeley, Fort Collins and Superior. She attended graduate school at the University of Kansas where she earned a master’s degree in public administration. She is assistant city manager for Cape Girardeau, Mo., where her duties include finances, information technology and human resources. She has also assisted the city manager with numerous projects and was the city’s Main Street representative. She was involved in development projects and community outreach including serving on the United Way board. She has worked for Cape Girardeau, Mo., for 10 years and said the Alamosa vacancy is the first position for which she has applied during that time.

She is a credentialed manager through International City Management Association’s (ICMA) Credentialed Manager Program.

• Barry Cook is originally from Wheatland, Wyo., and has served many years in Wyoming cities. After receiving a degree at the University of Wyoming, he went to graduate school in California where he earned a master’s degree in public administration and decided he wanted to spend his entire career in local government. He first started as a circuit-riding administrator in Fremont County, Wyo., where he rotated through four small towns, two cities and the county. “I learned to communicate very well,” he said.

Cook then served in his hometown of Wheatland, Wyo., where he worked for five years before moving to Post Falls, Idaho, which grew from 5,000 to 20,000 during his two and a half years there. Many people were moving in from California, and the area experienced rapid growth, which posed its own challenges. Cook then moved back to Wyoming where he served as city administrator in Green River for 18 years.

He and his wife have four children.

• Douglas Gerber is the city manager in Goodland, Kan., which he dubbed the ?-mile high city at 4,000 feet. He has served there almost four years. He received his degrees from Kansas State University and has a master’s in public administration. He began his career in local government in Manhattan, Kan., as an intern and after graduate school interned in Michigan. He then moved back to Kansas where he began working for the City of Beloit as assistant finance director and then city administrator. He has been in Goodland since June 2009. He and his wife have six children, with the oldest age 14.

• Donna Wehe recently completed her master’s in business administration with an emphasis on public administration from Adams State University. She has lived in Alamosa since 1988, having moved here after college.

“Ever since I have lived here I have tried different types of things I have loved doing,” she said. “I love what I am doing now working with small businesses.”

Wehe is the director of the San Luis Valley Small Business Development Center in Alamosa, a position she has held for six years. Previously she managed the Valley Educators Credit Union in Alamosa.

She said through her work she has developed connections throughout the Valley and knows how important it is to collaborate.

“We all have to work together here,” she said.

• Don Van Wormer, the city manager in Monte Vista for nine years, came to the San Luis Valley from Kremmling where he served as town manager for seven years. Prior to that he was the county administrator for Hinsdale County for four years. At that time he had the opportunity to visit the Valley and told his wife it would be great to live in Monte Vista, a dream that later came true.

“I have fallen in love with the Valley, its great people, wonderful scenery. I think there’s opportunity abounding for us here.”

Van Wormer said before his career in local government he spent a number of years in business, first with a multinational corporation and then with his own small business.

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