Grand County Manager Lee Staab announced his retirement at the most recent meeting of the Grand County Board of County Commissioners, to be effective February 15, 2019.
Manager since 2016, Staab came to Grand County with a long history of military and civic duty. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Illinois, he served 27 years in the US military, including in a position as Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon. He would later attend Harvard University and serve two years as City Manager for Minot, North Dakota, before making his way to Colorado and Grand County, in order to be closer to his children and grandchildren.
As Grand County Manager, Staab has worked to streamline government processes, including day-to-day business, meeting formats, and the annual budgeting procedure. He has regulated the Board’s meeting calendar to allow for regular scheduling of both so-called normal business, regular updates from both County departments and community partners, and any other business that may present. And in 2017, he guided the County and all departments in the implementation of a zero-based budgeting process, a change meant to ensure that all functions within the County are analyzed for both need and cost and that all anticipated expenses are justified before approval.
Among other achievements, he oversaw the completion of an employee compensation review, adjusting salaries to be more in-line with market norms, in many cases, for the first time in years, and recently oversaw a shift in the County’s health benefit options, encouraging a financial incentive for employees to switch to a new health care plan that is anticipated to save the County millions in the next few years.
Then on Tuesday, supported by family and friends, he cited personal medical reasons, as he read a prepared letter of intent to retire. Staab referenced a medical emergency a few weeks ago that “force me to re-examine personal priorities” and “decide between family and my profession.” With his voice cracking, he spoke of his wife, Wanda, with words of praise, stating that “I will now publicly state that my main focus will be on my bride, my wife, and my best friend, who has stood by my side and supported me throughout my entire career. (…) Soon, she will have me always by her side, like it or not! I do look forward to that.”
He also made clear his intention to remain in Grand County, not just as a resident, but as an active community member. “Following my time with Grand County, I will be working closely with three non-profit organizations that are dedicated to assisting and working with veterans. I owe all of my successes in live to those military personnel who I have proudly served with, both in pease and in war. I am truly blessed to have an opportunity to work with these true ‘Heroes’ once again. These selfless American veterans truly embody the principles of duty, honor and country.”
Mr. Staab will continue his dedicated civic service as a volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Fisher House, Team Rubicon, and Wounded Warriors. He speaks highly of all three organizations, some with which he has previous or personal connection. In Landstuhl, Germany, he oversaw the construction of the largest Fisher House outside of the US, which provides “a free home-away-from home” for families of active duty military, veterans, and their loved ones “while a loved one is undergoing extended medical treatment in an approved facility.”
Team Rubicon was suggested by his daughter, Angela, who works with disabled veterans. It matches military veterans with first responders in instances of large-scale disasters. He states, “As a senior officer and professional engineer, I believe that I can provide assistance to this outstanding organization (…) and am anxious to begin my continued service to our country by providing assistance to American citizens that have been victims of these tragic events.”
And he says that he has been “honored and humbled to serve our nation’s fines and true heroes” through the Wounded Warriors program for the past few years, “providing one-on-one assistance to veterans who are in need.” He cites the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among our nation’s veteran population and says, “By working closely with some of these veterans, I hope to assist them with their struggles in returning to our nation after going through the traumas of war.”
Until such time as his retirement, however, Staab assures that he will continue to work on “important long-term ‘Strategic Issues’ that will shape the future of our county for generations to come” and to work “with the BOCC and Grand County in any capacity to assist in a smooth transition.”
BOCC Chair Merrit Linke acted as representative of the Board, responding by saying that he had not been quite ready to speak to the Manager’s resignation. But he continued, acknowledging Mr. Staab’s contributions to the County. “One thing I have to say is that us three have a lot of work ahead of us. There’s some big shoes to fill here. I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to go, but it’s going to be difficult. (…) I hope that we can find someone to help us continue on that path [that Mr. Staab has put the County on.] So one more time– I appreciate what you do.”
As of the time of writing, the County had not responded to inquiries as to what next steps might be in looking for a replacement for Mr. Staab as Grand County Manager.