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First county manager takes the reins

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Monday was the new Summit County manager’s first day on the job and Bob Jasper is taking the reins at a challenging time when tax revenue is shrinking and Courthouse employees are being laid off.

Still, much of his first day was spent road-tripping.

"We spent all morning driving around looking at not just the county, but issues," Jasper said in an interview Tuesday over coffee in Park City. "I’ve got a lot of learning to do."

Jasper said he has already spent time poring over budgets and getting to know members of the Summit County Council.

"Ultimately, it will be the County Council that says, ‘All right, we’ll buy into your priorities,’" Jasper said. "For that matter, if they don’t like the way things are being managed, they can say, ‘We’re going to get a new manager.’"

When voters changed the form of government in Summit County from a three-person commission to the five-person council/manager model in 2006, they also created the county manager position, which serves at the will of elected councilpersons.

"It is more efficient to have one executive head who then works with the legislative body, as opposed to three or five executive heads," Jasper said.

Jasper manages a budget of about $45 million and supervises day-to-day operations in the county. He receives roughly $130,000 per year plus benefits.

"It’s not about what I want to do, it’s about what [councilpersons] want to do, what the sheriff wants to do, what the health department wants to do and it’s about what the community needs and wants us to do," Jasper said.

At times, Jasper said discussions with the county’s elected officials may get testy.

"I get to recommend their budget. They request, I recommend, the [County Council] approves," he said. "There is always kind of dynamic tension going on."

This week, Jasper said he caught a glimpse of a number of lawsuits to which Summit County is a party.

Conflicts over land use mark many of the courtroom disputes, he explained.

"I will look for patterns. Are there areas where we are litigating where there are alternatives to litigation?" Jasper said.

He said he hopes to help jumpstart development of a golf course at The Canyons, a project mired in litigation.

"From what I can tell, it’s to everybody’s benefit — the property owners, the ski corporation, the community — to find a way to compromise and get on with the project," Jasper said.

Some landowners at The Canyons pledged to cooperate by providing land and easements for the golf course to be completed, he explained.

"I’m hopeful that middle ground can be found and things can move forward," Jasper said. "It’s just a big morass and we’ve got to get beyond that."

Jasper arrived this week after stints as interim county manager of Teton County, Wyo., county administrator of Mesa County, Colo., and assistant county manager for Washoe County, Nev., which includes the Lake Tahoe area.

"It was important that he understood destination tourism and recreation, in addition to his great understanding of county government and rural and agricultural concerns," Summit County Councilwoman Sally Elliott said. "It was critical to me that he understood the concerns of all of Summit County’s interests."


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