Team of three, some new and some seasoned, takes over Gypsum leadership | VailDaily.com

Team of three, some new and some seasoned, takes over Gypsum leadership

Gypsum's new leaders are not new to the community, but they do have different titles. Shown, from left to right are Assistant Town Manager/Town Engineer Jim Hancock, Human Resources Director Frances Barela and Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann.

GYPSUM — For decades, stability has been the key characteristic of Gypsum town leadership.

As a home rule municipality, Gypsum did away with term limits for town council members years ago. Several of the current council members have served several concurrent terms. Other members served in the past and have returned to serve again.

And then there's the issue of the town manager. Jeff Shroll came to the community when he was still in his early 20s, and remained at his post for nearly 25 years before recently moving over to a new position as Eagle County Manager.

So, for the first time in more than two decades, Gypsum had to find a new leader. Council members didn't search very far.

Jeremy Rietmann, who has worked as economic development director for Gypsum since August 2016, is the town's new manager. While he is a relative newcomer to the town, he will have plenty of seasoned backup. At the same time they named Rietmann manager, council members named town engineer Jim Hancock as assistant manager and Frances Barela as human resources director. Hancock has worked for Gypsum since 2002. Barela has been with the town since 1995.

Not all that new

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While Rietmann has only been at the town for a couple of years, he arrived in Eagle County in 2011. He is a native of Ione, Oregon, a small town of about 300 people. He's a graduate of Colorado State University, where he earned a political science degree.

In 2011, Rietmann and his wife, Carly, moved to the area when she was hired by the Eagle County Healthy Aging program. Rietmann's first job in the valley was with the Vail Valley Partnership, where he became the business development director.

As he steps into his new job, Rietmann said Gypsum has a great team in place.

"Everyone trusts one another and works well together. There is good camaraderie in the town," he said.

Barela was one of the people who built that municipal atmosphere. "I started about a year after Jeff started. He was just 24 years old," she said.

For a number of years, Barela has had the title "assistant town manager" but her focus was on human resources for the town. Her new title more accurately describes her duties.

When she started at the town, there were fewer than 10 employees. Today, the town has 44 full-time workers and that number grows to between 65 and 70 during the summer when temporary parks and golf employees join the ranks.

Barela noted Gypsum has a long-standing practice of advancement from within — a philosophy the Town Council strongly supports. Rietmann is an example of that thinking, as is Hancock.

'You're hired'

Back in 2002, Hancock thought he was signing on as a town consultant. He knew Gypsum town engineer Jerry Law from previous work in the coal industry. As he tells it, Hancock agreed to help out the town when Law left the community to serve with the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan. But when he arrived at Law's going-away party, Hancock learned he was taking over as town engineer.

"It worked out very well, because I never left," Hancock said.

During his time at the town, there have been plenty of challenges — from development of the Gypsum Town Hall, recreation center and library campus to building roads and roundabouts to expansion of LEDE Reservoir. In his new role, and as he continues engineering duties, Hancock notes the future promises more tests for the community.

"Gypsum is a very welcoming place and moving ahead we have to look at the next 20 to 25 years of growth in a way that allows Gypsum to continue to evolve" Rietmann said. "But it should still feel like Gypsum."

What lies ahead

Rietmann noted that Gypsum is a bedroom community today, but with technology changes, that definition will also change.

"We just don't know what will be possible," he noted.

Rietmann said enhanced internet service in the community is a vital need.

"That's just a cornerstone to everything," Rietmann said. "We talk about location-neutral business, but that's only possible if you have reliable internet service available."

Internet service is a foundation planning issue, Rietmann said. He noted that Gypsum works hard to ensure its foundational services — water and wastewater treatment, roads and community amenities — are sound. Additionally, the town wants to have foresight regarding land use planning.

In particular the town is looking toward development near Ridley's market, at the tower center and along the riverfront.

"It's good to have that kind of vision. We can't force development to happen, but we can certainly get out of its way," Hancock said.

More immediate future

While the town looks at its long-term needs, Hancock noted that Gypsum's immediate future looks busy.

Crews this week began working on masonry to improve the appearance of the railroad overpass at U.S. Highway 6. This summer will launch a $1.5 million project to replace the existing water line from Mosher Spring to the Gypsum water treatment plant. In addition to the roughly 8,000 feet of water line replacement, the project will include a hydroelectric generation system, which will produce enough energy to supply 1,000 homes.

The town is also looking at preliminary designs for an expansion of the popular Gypsum Recreation Center, as well as improvements at the Rittenhouse boat ramp. Plans are proceeding for the Dry Lake Motor Sports Park, a Gypsum trails network and an expansion at the Gypsum Shooting Sports Park.

Rietmann said the town is working with The Retail Coach, a consulting firm, to expand its commercial opportunities and is working on planning for a roundabout at the Cooley Mesa Road and Valley Road intersection.

As they begin their new roles with the town, Rietmann, Hancock and Barela credited Shroll with building an organization well positioned for them to step in.

"The employees here are very proud of Gypsum and kudos to Jeff for that. His fingerprints are all over this town," Hancock said.