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Lindblad hired as CDC director

Local consultant Rich Lindblad has been tapped to head the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation as the organization’s executive director.

The CDC board announced its choice of Lindblad during a meeting Monday at the Pagosa Lodge.

Lindblad was one of 16 candidates vying for the position.

The CDC began conducting a search for an executive earlier this summer, following the resignation of the organization’s previous executive director Steve Vassallo last March. In May, the CDC board appointed former Archuleta County Special Projects Manager Karin Kohake as interim director.

Vassallo provided the CDC board with a letter of resignation last March, in part citing “(T)he recent negative publicity in media outlets.” Initially, the board rejected Vassallo’s resignation, but reversed course two weeks later after Vassallo attempted to renegotiate his executive director contract as a part-time consultant (one week a month at $5,000) along with a 30 percent commission on all CDC memberships.

In mid-March the board rejected Vassallo’s offer, citing that they felt the CDC required an executive director holding a full-time position.

According to a news release dated March 14 from the CDC board and circulated during the meeting that same day, “After consultation with Mr. Vassallo, the PSCDC board of directors has accepted Steve’s resignation. The PSCDC board has asked Rich Lindblad to assist with a review of the board’s structure, including membership and privatization options. While this task is underway, the board will review options for filling the executive director position.”

Lindblad also performed other tasks for the CDC, including the supervision of the community grant writer — a position since eliminated by the board.

Addressing the board, Lindblad said, “Let me thank you all, the board, for your vote of confidence.”

Turning to attendees at the meeting, Lindblad said he had been a “corporate guy” for 30 years, during which time he started a consulting business. Lindblad added that he moved that business out to the Pagosa area after taking a position with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, but lately had worked with the Small Business Development Center with Fort Lewis College and the Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado.

It was those latter relationships that Lindblad said he felt gave him an edge over the other candidates who had applied for the executive director position.

Speaking to his immediate future as executive director, Lindblad stated, “It’s about creating some excitement about this organization,” and added that he hoped to increase community participation with the organization.

With a new executive director on board, it will be of interest to see what direction the CDC will take in the near future. As reported in the July 21 edition of The SUN, the CDC seems to have struggled for an identity and has done little to distinguish itself as a Community Development Corporation as defined.

In fact, at Monday’s meeting a number of members brought up the article published in The SUN and the questions raised by the writer concerning what direction the CDC should pursue.

“I want to thank you (SUN staff) for bringing up those questions in your article,” said board member Morgan Murri. “They really needed to be asked and we need to determine what our focus is.”

In fact, those questions were brought sharply into focus when local business owner Chuck Sauer addressed the board regarding the lack of available and affordable childcare in Archuleta County and the effect that dearth has on local low-income workers.

According to Sauer, he and a number of business owners have trouble retaining employees due to the number of workers needing reliable childcare during work hours but who are unable to find that care — much less afford that care — in order to sustain a job.

“There’s a tremendous shortage of certified babysitters or daycare centers, that are affordable to people,” Sauer told the board. “Many times they start out at $7.50 to $10 an hour, and yet they are having to pay three-quarters of that for babysitting services, or even family, to watch the children.”

Chamber of Commerce Director Mary Jo Coulehan supported Sauer’s plea, stating that discussions with Seeds of Learning Executive Director Lynne Bridges indicated that the lack of available and affordable childcare was indeed a crisis in the area, potentially hindering the ability of business owners to find a ready workforce.

Furthermore, Coulehan stated that the alleged childcare crisis in the county could very well be discouraging businesses and young families from relocating to the area.

“I urge you, the board, to invite Lynne in and hear what she has to say,” Coulehan said.

However, town representative on the board (and Pagosa Springs Mayor) Ross Aragon questioned whether it was the role of the CDC to address broader community issues or to focus strictly on economic development. Nevertheless, Aragon said that it was time the board determined purpose and direction for the organization.

And indeed, as The SUN reported in the July 21 edition, because the expansion of available and affordable childcare directly affects work force participation, it is precisely the kind of issue a community development corporation addresses. Furthermore, investing in the development of childcare services would create numerous jobs, either directly or indirectly, and so would address the economic development component that normally defines part of a CDC’s function.

Still, the board remained undecided on exactly what the Pagosa Springs CDC should be doing and how it would eventually assume its identity, presumably reserving that discussion for a later time.

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