Under first county manager, Summit County finances improved
Summit County Council Chair Chris Robinson says he has trouble trying to shake the image of when he first met County Manager Bob Jasper.
"I just can’t get out of my mind the image of when we selected him as county manager and had to meet him halfway between Jackson Hole (Wyoming) and Park City in Idaho," Robinson joked.
Council member David Ure was unable to attend the meeting and Robinson joked how the remaining council members met Jasper in a ghost town in Idaho.
When Jasper was hired in 2009 as the first county manager, he was the interim county manager for Teton County, Wyoming. Before that, he worked for 10 years as a county administrator for Mesa County, Colorado, and 12 years as assistant county manager for Washoe County, Nevada.
"It was exciting," Jasper said of his new role. "I get nostalgic thinking about it. I’ve been in this business for a long time and I thought it was a really unique opportunity to take on a position that was new to Summit County."
When residents voted to convert from a three-member commission to a five-member council/manager form of government, the county’s General Fund was nearly $1 million in debt due to the recession.
One of his biggest challenges when he took office in 2010 was the state of the county’s finances, Jasper said.
"Not only were we broke, but we had overspent," Jasper said. "We weren’t just in the hole, we were in debt."
He spent the next few years slashing the budget and cutting back on staff. Taxes were raised for road maintenance and newly hired staff members were counseled on improving their department’s financial practices.
"If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money," Jasper said.
Jasper rearranged the county’s financial procedures based on his time spent as a budget director and attempted to consolidate departments.
"I just had really different thoughts about what it took to manage the county’s finances," Jasper said.
Under the new manager’s direction, the county’s budget gradually rebounded from the devastating effects of the recession.
"We made all kinds of changes about how we track our money and we dug ourselves out of the hole," Jasper said.
In 2012 and 2013, the county’s operating revenues were approximately $46 million and $48 million, respectively. Last year, the county’s overall operating budget increased 13 percent to $51.5 million.
On Wednesday, the County Council was able to approve a recommended budgetary increase of $6.5 million without raising taxes.
"We’re not trying to build up a whole bunch," Jasper said. "We are just starting to go back and do capital projects we should have done years ago."
Jasper announced his plans to retire during the summer, prompting the search for a new county manager.
Last month, the County Council announced Tom Fisher as the second-ever county manager. He will start on Jan. 20.
"To think how far we’ve come from that first meeting in Idaho," Robinson said on Wednesday, at Jasper’s final County Council meeting. "He’s really rolled with the punches and there’s been a lot. He’s swung some and we’ve gone back and forth, but we’ve been able to do a lot."
Dec. 18, less than one day after the council finalized the budget, Jasper was scheduled board a plane to Paris, with plans to spend Christmas in Vienna and the New Year in Prague.
"I am sad about leaving because it’s been rewarding and it has made me very happy," Jasper said. "I really love the people of this community because they are committing to keeping it and making it better."
"Only reason I am leaving is because I have been doing this for 40 years and I want to go travel and see the world with the love of my life," he added.
Jasper isn’t gone forever, though. He and his significant other, Francie McNally, have a home in Park City.