New City Hall official sees ‘first-tier’ problems instead of crime, poverty
September 24, 2013
Matt Dias worked his way up the ranks in Park City in the past decade even as he spent most of that time in the East.
The newly installed assistant city manager at the Marsac Building was a Main Street restaurant server a decade ago, living in Prospector at the time after having been to the city on ski trips several times.
Dias, though, left after having lived in Park City for 1 1/2 years in 2002 and 2003, during and after the Winter Olympic era. He said in an interview he made lifelong friends while living in Park City, enjoying the outdoors and the community mindedness of the city.
"I know a great amount of trust has been placed in my hands . . . I take that really seriously," Dias said during a Monday interview.
Dias filled a high-level position in the municipal government after it was vacant for more than a year. Diane Foster, who most recently held the job, was promoted to the city manager post last spring and was acting city manager starting in August of 2012. He was picked from a field of 130 people who wanted the job. His first day at the Marsac Building was in late August.
The Dias family — wife Christy, 2-year-old son Graham and newborn daughter Greta — is living in City Hall-owned work force housing in Prospector as they look for a place, preferably, he said, inside Park City.
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Dias, who is 34 years old, anticipates he will be involved in an array of municipal functions. He said risk management, emergency management, finances and the municipal government’s broad sustainability programs will be important to the position. He will be assigned to monitor the Statehouse as well.
Dias said Park City handles what he calls "first-tier problems," topics like land conservation, water and quality-of-life issues rather than crime, drugs and poverty that communities elsewhere face.
"It’s no secret this place is doing exceptionally well," he said in an interview shortly after arriving.
Dias left Park City after the Olympics to pursue a career in government work. He earned a graduate degree in public administration from American University in Washington, D.C., after graduating from the University of Vermont with degrees in history and political science. He worked for a Texas congressman and then Sen. Joe Lieberman, who at the time was a Democrat from Connecticut. His experience in the nation’s capital also included time at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency that compiles a wide range of information about the country’s work force.
He spent upward of seven years in Washington, learning the mechanics of the legislative process, campaigns and lobbying, he said. Dias said his time in Washington led him toward work at the local-government level rather than at the federal level. Working in local government, he said, provides the opportunity to witness the effects of decisions.
"It taught me a lot. It taught me all about the parliamentary procedure," he said.
Dias was later hired by the Boston suburb of Somerville, Mass., with a population of a little less than 80,000. Over his five years in Somerville, he held the positions of budget director, the director of transportation and parking as well as the mayor’s aide, a management position that put him in the role of supervising department heads.
In announcing the hiring last summer, City Hall said Dias oversaw a staff of 65 people in Somerville. His operating budget was $3.5 million. In the hiring announcement, Foster said Dias closed budget deficits and turned around organizations where he had worked. City Hall’s prepared statement at the time said Dias has a "unique combination of local and federal legislative and budget experience."
Dias was the budget director in Somerville as the recession wore on. He considers himself a moderate on fiscal issues. He said Somerville suffered through difficult years during the recession and needed to make budget decisions with precision. He said the Park City government appears to be "in a very strong position financially." The Boston area is politically charged, he said.
He said challenges in Park City include balancing growth, work force housing, places for senior citizens to live and protecting the middle class. Dias said he will use data and surveys as he crafts ideas about topics like growth.
"I tend to be a little bit wonky about data," he said.
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