In a brief special meeting of Telluride Town Council Tuesday, Greg Sund, of Trinidad, Colorado, was selected from a field of four candidates to fill, on an interim basis, the position vacated by former town manager Ross Herzog last year. Public works director, Paul Ruud, and finance director, Kailee Ranta, have been acting as the town’s co-managers since Herzog’s departure at the end of the year. The post is officially known as acting town manager, with a projected time frame of “three to four months,” according to Mayor DeLanie Young. Council voted unanimously to award Sund the job.
Sund comes to the manager’s desk with 27 years of professional local government management under his belt. Most recently, he served as the city manager for Trinidad from 2017-2019 and last year was the interim city administrator for Walsenburg. He has also been first-time city or county administrator in Spearfish, South Dakota, Dickinson, North Dakota and Ellis County, Kansas. In Hays, Kansas, he assumed the role of public works director.
The avowed “gym rat” and avid cyclist got bitten by the public administration bug — he holds his Master’s in the field — while living in Deadwood in the early 1980s.
“As I learned more about the city government there, I decided to run for office as a city council member. I was elected to that position in 1983,” Sund told the Daily Planet. “However that same year, the voters decided to change from a Mayor and council form of government to a city commission form. That meant to continue to be involved, I had to run for city commissioner a year later. I was elected to that position and served four years as the city Finance commissioner.”
A college student at the time, he guided the city into converting from paper accounting to using accounting software. He began his public administration thesis work while also working for Rapid City, South Dakota, first as a volunteer in the mayor’s office, then as an intern for public works. His first full-time job, post-graduation was as city finance officer for Platte, South Dakota. He’s been in public administration ever since, save for a yearlong stint as a regional director of the South Dakota Small Business Development Center.
His work in Colorado includes a pair of notable accomplishments. Sund worked with the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) on the purchase of a 19,200-acre ranch south of Trinidad that Governor Jared Polis named as the 42nd State Park in 2019. He also helped plan and implement the first rural Space to Create project in Colorado that provides 41 live/work units for low-income artists.
Sund reflected on what Trinidad and Telluride share in common.
“Both cities have visitor attractions, but Telluride’s draw is obviously much larger with the possible exception of marijuana sales,” he said. “Because Trinidad is the first community in Colorado when one enters the state from Texas or I-25 in New Mexico, it does very well from marijuana sales.”
He actually finds that Deadwood may have more in common with Telluride.
“Deadwood is a city that focuses on the visitor industry because of its history and while I lived there, it also had a thriving ski industry with two ski resorts just outside Lead, South Dakota,” Sund said. “One of the challenges of Deadwood was to convince skiers to do multi-day visits by making the activities in Deadwood more attractive, especially in the evenings. These days, Deadwood’s draw is gaming, which has changed the city a lot.”
The job of municipal or government management can make for a peripatetic life, but it’s one he and his wife, Elizabeth have enjoyed.
“While moving is a challenge, I have come to accept that changing positions in the local government management field usually requires relocation, especially in areas outside major populations,” Sund said. “In my career, I have lived in South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, and now Colorado. (We’ve) thoroughly enjoyed exploring the region and states we have lived in. Colorado is no exception.”
The draw of living in a mountain valley hearkens back to his Deadwood days. The recreational opportunities, he said, are obvious, especially for his pursuit as a dedicated cyclist.
“I have enjoyed bicycling throughout my life,” the self-proclaimed “gym rat” said. “I discontinued riding on paved roads about 10 years ago and bought a cross-over bike. Since then, I spend more time on back roads and gravel roads. In addition, I purchased a mountain bike a few years ago and have enjoyed having true off-road experiences.”
He also unwinds with art, with a focus on drawing, watercolors, calligraphy, and gold- and silver-smithing.
When town council interviewed Sund, he told council members and Young that he applied for the position because it was interim, but told the Daily Planet he’d be open to settling in for a longer stint.
“I am not opposed to continuing to serve in this field full-time and may consider the full-time position,” he said.
His over-arching goal is to serve the community.
“I think the biggest attraction to this profession is the opportunity to make a difference in every community one serves.”