New county administrator sets out to build bridges

Chantal Unfug

When Chantal Unfug talks about building bridges in her new role as Mesa County administrator, she speaking both literally and metaphorically.

One of the responsibilities of county government is to build and maintain roads and bridges to ensure safe and efficient transportation, Unfug said.

At the same time, Unfug believes its her responsibility to build and maintain connections of a different sort among various constituencies, including county commissioners, department managers, staff, the public and business owners.

In both cases, Unfug said she’s anxious to start the next phase of a long and varied career in government service.

Unfug officially began her duties July 20, about three months after county commissioners announced her selection for the job.

Unfug succeeds Jon Peacock, who resigned a year ago and subsequently was hired as county manager in Pitkin County. Tom Papin, former director of the Mesa County Department of Human Services, served as an interim administrator.

Prior to joining Mesa County, Unfug served as manager of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation.

Unfug previously served in several positions with the City and County of Denver, including special assistant to the mayor and director of the office of boards and commissions. She also served as deputy city liaison for the Democratic National Convention held in Denver in 2008.

Prior to that, Unfug worked with the State of Colorado as director of the Colorado Women’s Business Office and deputy director of boards and commissions.

Before joining the public sector, Unfug helped launch Biomedical Consultants, a health care-related consulting firm for the investment community.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Boston University.

Unfug said she was attracted to the job in Mesa County in part because of a family connection — her husband’s brother and and parents live in the Grand Valley. In addition, though, Unfug said she has wanted for about five years to move into county management. “It’s just a nice fit for personal reasons and professional reasons.”

Unfug said her diverse background has prepared her for her latest job in a number of ways.

Her work on statewide and city wide issues have given her an appreciation for a larger perspective, she said. “I can see the big picture and how things fit together.”

She’s also worked on specific projects involving individual facilities, however.

In addition, Unfug said she’s used to working with elected officials, including the governor of Colorado and mayor of Denver. Moreover, she’s worked as an economic development specialist and served on a workforce development board in Denver.

Unfug said her work with the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation over the past three years constituted the best training of all in dealing with such issues as capital projects, infrastructure, open space and public safety. The department is similar in size to Mesa County, she said, with about 700 employees, an annual budget of $100 million and 75 separate facilities.

In Mesa County, Unfug said her duties will include supporting the commissioners’ vision for county government, serving as a leader for county departments and staff and ensuring the county is managed in a fiscally responsible manner.

Unfug expects to spend a good portion of her first month on the job on what she calls a “look, listen and learn tour” visiting county facilities, meeting staff and talking with them what they’re happy — and not so happy — about.

Unfug also expects to spend a lot of time in meeting with the commissioners and other elected county officials to discuss strategy as well as gaining a full understanding of the county budget process. Unfug faces yet another immediate task in hiring a new information technology director for the county.

In addition, Unfug said she’s looking forward to getting to know community and business leaders.

Unfug said county government serves as a kind of partner with business in efficiently providing the services they need. On occasion, that means building bridges, literally and metaphorically.