Plumas County’s gain |

Plumas County’s gain

Much in demand since he left Eagle County after six years as the county administrator, Jack Ingstad has taken a job in beautiful Plumas County, Calif.

I know it is beautiful because Pluma County, about an hour north of Lake Tahoe, just happens to be where I got my start in newspapers back in the mid-1980s. Jack is going to love this more-forested slice of what the Vail Valley used to be, although he’ll have to drive a bit farther to go skiing.

Believe me, this is Plumas County’s gain. Jack is a rarity ” a low-key, brilliant and humble public servant. Oh, I’m told he can be demanding on staff, and I’ve gotten a taste of his negotiating talents each year when it came time for the annual contract for the county’s legal advertisements. But he’s also respected, and frankly I admire the guy. He’s easily the best municipal chief executive I’ve dealt with in my 20 or so so years of newspaper journalism.

His background offers a clue. Like a cat, he’s led a number of different lives, if not quite nine yet. Let’s see, he’s been a television reporter, an attorney and a state senator in North Dakota before taking on the thankless task of running counties on behalf of an ever-changing, ever-fickle group of smalltime politicians. You’d never know it, though. He’s as low key as they come, and I believe he’s embraced the words “public servant.” The commissioners get the glory; he’ll accept the blame if he can’t explain to the press the errors of their observations when the politicians get foolish, as they occasionally will do.

His stint as a politician gives him insight into the unique pressures on these leaders. He understands reporting, respects the Fourth Estate, and gives us what we seek: straight answers. Just be sure to ask the right questions. The legal training is invaluable, of course, to any municipal manager.

Other than perhaps the defense attorneys, only Eagle County government under Ingstad’s direction showed itself as fully competent during the strange, oftern twisted rape case against Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. The investigation was flawed, the courthouse sinking for all the leaks, the prosecutors overmatched. But the preparations for the media hordes were first rate under Ingstad, and there was plenty of potential for that part to go asunder with the rest of the handling of that case.

I understand Plumas County’s last top administrator perhaps liked to spend a bit more than some citizens might prefer. Funny, Ingstad started feeling it was time to go when the new Eagle County majority this year got the disputable notion that it couldn’t spend enough. This is following years of good fiscally conservative policies that allowed Eagle County to weather the post-9/11 recession in this region far better than any of the municipalities around here. If Plumas County is looking for an administrator who believes in rainy day prudence ” and they should ” well, they found one in Ingstad.

That will be Eagle County’s loss if they aren’t more careful with the pocketbook. I’ve missed Jack since he left in April, and frankly, I think he’s missed at the county offices. But I’m tickled that he landed in Plumas County, near his daughters who attend college in Reno, Nevada, about 90 minutes from the county seat, Quincy.

And you know, remembering our four years in the mountain community where our son was born, I’m a little jealous of Jack. He’ll be happy there, I think. And if the Plumas County supervisors have any sense at all, they’ll be very happy with him. Well, they must, I figure. After all, they were bright enough to get him to go there.

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