Eagle Town Hall is under new manager
EAGLE — John Schneiger thinks Eagle is teeming with possibilities and he believes he has the background help make some great things happen.
And that, in a nutshell, is what brought him to his new job as Eagle’s town manager.
“I think Eagle is a great town and I love the Western Slope,” Schneiger said.
While he originally hails from Wisconsin, Schneiger has spent a significant part of his professional career west of the Continental Divide. His first manager job was in Granby, followed by stints in Fruita and Montrose. That means he is familiar with the cultural differences between this part of the state and the Front Range. He has experienced the challenges of the boom and bust cycles that hit hard in this region. And, most importantly, he has become a Broncos fan.
But he does admit, as just about any Wisconsin native would, that he shares his allegiance with the Green Bay Packers.
When Schneiger saw the Eagle job announcement, he thought the position presented a good fit for his skill set.
“I have the outdoor recreation, mountain biking, special events, smart growth and economic development experience from my time in Fruita,” Schneiger said.
He noted that, as Fruita’s manager, the community won several Governor’s Smart Growth awards and started to build its mountain biking reputation.
“We had a strong interest in leveraging the town’s financial resources through partnerships and grants,” he said.
That knowledge will be an important asset as the town moves forward with planning for the recently-approved Eagle River park. While the community’s voters approved a sales tax increase to help fund the project, and that increase is estimated to generate approximately $5 million over the next 20 years, the project’s whitewater features and riverbank enhancements will cost considerably more than that. Eagle will need to partner with other agencies and hopes to attract grant dollars to complete the project.
That’s not the only expensive project looming on Eagle’s horizon. As the town grows, it will need additional water treatment capability and has already developed plans for the Lower Basin Treatment Plant — a new facility that will be located east (up river) from the town’s existing wastewater treatment plant.
“Those are both very important projects for the town,” Schneiger said. “Together they will cost around $30 million. We will need to leverage our funding to make them happen.”
Back in the mid-2000s, the town of Eagle recorded a 20 percent growth rate in a single year and conducted a survey that showed the average community resident had lived in town for less than four years. Those statistics are the living embodiment, not just of boom growth, but extreme boom growth. Schneiger said his time in Montrose taught him a great deal about how to handle rapid growth. While he was manager there, one study showed the community was the 17th fastest growing small city in the United States.
Schneiger noted he was responsible for preparing the Montrose municipal organization for that huge growth impact, and his plan centered on making sure he had the right people and the right systems in place. He envisions a similar effort for Eagle.
“One of many goals is to continue the solid work others have done, but we may need to slow down. You need to make sure everyone who is affected is involved in the decisions you make,” he said.
For the immediate future, Schneiger isn’t the only new face at Eagle Town Hall. This spring, four new town board members and a new mayor were elected. While the new Eagle Town Board does include several people who have served previously, there is a new group dynamic and that means it’s time to examine again where the community is and where it is headed. That will happen during a town board retreat planned in June.
While he is new to town, Schneiger is very familiar with the role of being the most prominent face attached to town government.
“When I was in Montrose, if I went to the Wal-Mart, I would average three inquiries or complaints per visit. That’s when I started making sure I always carried some of my business cards to give out and to take notes,” he said.
Schneiger noted that Eagle residents seem to be a very hands-on crew — involved in their town’s operations and willing to share ideas and air beefs.
“People take for granted most of the things we (municipal government) do,” Schneiger said. But making sure that the water is on, the street are plowed and the toilets flush is a huge focus and it takes a strong organization to make sure these activities appear to be simple.
Schneiger said one of his top priorities is to get to know the town’s organization and to make sure he has a good understanding of the employees’ roles and needs. He applauded the work that Eagle Town Clerk and interim Town Manager Jenny Rakow has done regarding a new employee manual and said increasing communications within the town organization is a priority. Additionally, he said that while Eagle has spent a lot of time developing its master plan for land use, it needs to focus on an economic development plan.
With all these needs looming, the rest of this year will be busy for Schneiger. But that doesn’t mean he will be rushing the work.
“We need to slow down and do things right,” he said. He simply intends to focus is what’s best for the town organization and the community as a whole.
“The time that I have been here so far has reinforced my decision to accept this job,” he said. “Eagle has friendly, down-to-earth people and one of the things I have picked up about Eagle is that its residents have a lot of community spirit and pride.”
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