Callahan retires after 13 years serving Summit County
In 2001, when Kevin Callahan took over as Summit County’s public works director, he wore a lot of hats. In addition to overseeing the county’s transportation and waste management systems, the catch-all department included animal control and weed abatement. And that doesn’t take into account the impending 2002 Winter Olympics that were anticipated to bring as many as 196,000 spectators to competition venues in Summit County.
"It was a steep learning curve," he recalls.
Last month, after more than a decade of service as public works director and a year as the county’s emergency manager, Callahan has retired. He and his wife, Sedona Callahan, are moving to Portland, Ore. where he says he hopes to relax and hone his skills as an artist.
But letting go of the reins won’t be easy. Callahan says he will miss his colleagues at the county courthouse and in Park City.
"I will miss the people. This is a great community and the opportunity to serve them has been very satisfying," he said.
While challenging, Callahan said Summit County came through the Olympics with flying colors. In fact, the success of the bus system that shuttled visitors from all over the world from satellite parking lots to the ski areas, Main Street and the Utah Olympic Park was so well received, it became the catalyst for a regional transit system.
Callahan helped to craft an agreement between Park City and the county to offer bus service between the Old Town Transit Center and Kimball Junction.
"The goal was to figure out how to plan for a mass transit system that would help residents maintain a good quality of life and also accommodate future growth.
Over the years that plan has grown and now includes a Utah Transit Authority shuttle to and from Salt Lake City.
According to Park City’s Long Range Transit Planner Kent Cashel, "Kevin’s collaborative nature and ‘can do’ attitude made it possible to transform the Park City-Summit County regional transit system from a mere vision to reality."
During his tenure, Callahan is credited with expanding the county’s solid waste collection services and landfill facilities. He also helped to launch the county’s first curbside recycling efforts.
In 2013, in an effort to ease into retirement, Callahan stepped down from his public works post to become the county’s part-time emergency manager, a job that drew on his early work as a city planner in California.
Even though the job was part-time, Callahan dedicated himself to creating a comprehensive plan and training staff.
"We needed to have an integrated community plan to evaluate what the hazards were and what resources were available," he said.
Those plans have already been put to the test during recent flooding and wildfire emergencies.
According to Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt, "Kevin’s work and efforts as the public works director and most recently as the county’s emergency manager have been commendable. Kevin continues to care for the community he served for so long and demonstrated that every workday. I wish Kevin the best of retirements, he’s earned it."
Emergency Manager’s post up in the air
If Callahan has one regret as he heads out of town, it is that he does not have a successor in place. The future of the job is uncertain.
According to Summit County Human Resources Director Brian Bellamy, Summit County Manager Bob Jasper has delayed rehiring the position until the council looks at the upcoming budget. At that point they will determine whether or not to expand the position to full-time.
Callahan thinks they should.
"I would make a sincere plea to the budget committee it has got to be a full-time post. We have done so little for so many years. We are not a rural county anymore. We have a lot of vulnerabilities. We need to have someone who understands that," he said.
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Summit County’s sales taxes are beating 2019 levels, with an estimated additional $1.2 million in revenue. Councilors debated using the money to hire more employees.