Love of community keeps Tom Bakaly occupied
Tom Bakaly is an easy man to like, right off the bat. At first blush, you probably wouldn’t guess his line of work. Pleasant and soft-spoken, he comes across as a bit bookish. Words like easy-going, measured, even shy come to mind. Don’t let that fool you. There’s fire in the belly! Pushing aside a pair of potted poinsettias to clear a space for an interviewer’s chair at his desk, the City Manager took a break from a frenzied schedule last week to talk about his life and what brought him to Park City.
Bakaly admits that moving to Park City from Pasadena, Calif., in 1995 was something of a culture shock. He and his wife, Pam, had never lived in a small community before, much less a resort town. Eleven years later, ask Bakaly what he likes best about living in Park City and he responds without hesitation — "it’s the community. I never even knew who lived next door before I moved here. Next week I’ll be out in the cul-de-sac with all my neighbors putting Christmas decorations on our big, shared spruce tree. My neighbors are great."
Born and raised in Pasadena, Bakaly is the youngest of three brothers. He notes proudly that his parents are "still with us, still married" and still living in the same house he grew up in. As the baby of the family, he agrees he may have been just a little spoiled. "I got away with murder, all at the expense of my brothers," he recalls.
"We were a pretty typical family," says Bakaly. "I liked the beach as a kid, but I was always more drawn to the mountains. The family often went up to Big Bear, a resort in the mountains northeast of Pasadena. I learned to ski there and really enjoyed the area."
Bakaly attended Polytechnic, a private prep school in Pasadena through high school. In 1986, he earned a bachelors degree in history at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. "I’m from a long line of lawyers and was planning on law school, but things changed in Colorado. I took a lot of political science courses as an undergraduate and got real interested in politics. When I went home to Pasadena, I got involved in running some local and federal political campaigns. Some of my best memories during that time are of working on campaigns and being at headquarters on election night. I guess I got hooked." Bakaly went on to get a masters degree in public administration at the University of Southern California.
In the early 1990s, he took a job in the finance department for the city of Pasadena and soon found himself wearing the budget director’s hat for the city. He met Pam playing co-ed community softball in Pasadena. They’ve been married 14 years now.
Bakaly says he loved living and working in southern California, but that everything changed after the riots. " We just didn’t feel safe there anymore." The move to Park City came in 1995 when he accepted a job in the finance department. Quickly pegged as a rock-solid worker with a sharp intellect and political acumen, he was tapped for the city manager’s job seven years later.
At age 38, many may have judged him too young for the job. "It still comes up sometimes," he says. "I just smile and say, ‘it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.’" Eight years later, Bakaly has the reigns firmly in hand, and many miles behind him.
He pauses for a minute to key in on what he likes best about the job. "I guess it’s that I like being able to make a difference. I like being where the rubber meets the road. And I like the diversity of the work."
What’s the hardest part of the job? "I’d have to say it’s the struggle to balance what’s personal and what’s professional," muses Bakaly. "Like doing what’s right when it doesn’t always make people happy. Maintaining integrity is important to me. But I guess someone’s always going to be mad at you in this job, otherwise you’re probably not doing it right."
Ask Bakaly what he’s passionate about and he replies without hesitation, "family." He’s found a rich, full life in Park City with Pam and eight-year-old son, Henry. The family enjoys downhill skiing, bicycling and just being outdoors together. He chuckles when he recounts his exploits with Henry. "We built a model rocket together after the model airplane project failed to take off. I’m not the handiest guy around, so I was nervous when we took the rocket out to launch it. The fuse didn’t ignite the first two times we tried it. It was a surprise to both of us when it worked the third time. We were shocked when the parachute actually opened."
Bakaly also enjoys fly-fishing on the nearby Provo River and in the Island Park area of Idaho. On winter nights he enjoys reading (Stephen King is a favorite author) and the game of cribbage. In fact, he’s a cribbage devotee. "I’m a numbers guy, so I really like that part of it. I’m also interested in the history of the game. Some of the old cribbage boards are neat."
Bakaly says he has found quality of life and balance in the Park City community. And he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
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