~ Bob Volpe and Rick Langenberg ~
A political bomb shell has struck in Woodland Park, with a sudden announcement by City Manager David Buttery to call it quits within the next few months.
During last week’s council meeting, Buttery announced he is retiring after 20 years of service to the city. Buttery has officially given a 120-day notice to the city of his intention to retire, so he will officially step down on April 20, 2018, several weeks after the municipal elections.
After the announcement, the council went into executive session to discuss this matter further. The news of the departure of Buttery, regarded as the management anchor of the Woodland Park government for the last decade, has shocked many residents and civic leaders. Many are surprised about the timing of this announcement.
During staff reports at the end of the meeting Buttery spoke to the council about his decision to retire. He said, “When I came to the city in 1997 as the public works director, after a 21-year Army career, I envisioned staying for 20 years. That 20 years was last July, but I wanted to see the completion of the Memorial Park renovation project, the Woodland Aquatic Center, and the 2018 budget, that I knew would be a challenge. Memorial Park is finished and has become the downtown jewel that people desired. The Aquatic Center is up and running and bringing smiles to many people. And earlier this evening the budget was adopted. I want to thank this and previous
councils for allowing me to serve our citizens, businesses, and visitors. I want to thank our dedicated staff for serving alongside me to make this the wonderful place that it is to live, work, and play.”
“Lastly I want to thank my wife Tamara and my entire family for their love and support. I truly thank God for allowing me this opportunity to serve our wonderful community,” he added.
Buttery’s tenure was sometimes controversial, especially in the last few years. There was a lot of discord among the citizenry over the handling of the Woodland Park Aquatic Center. Many in the community believed the deal made with the high school to locate the center on school property was not transparent, and that the debt incurred by the city for the construction was more than the citizens could bear.
Regardless of the controversial nature of Buttery’s term as city manager, if not for his leadership, the Aquatic Center and the renovation of Memorial Park may never have seen the light of day, according to supporters of his administration.
Woodland Park Mayor Neal Levy lamented Buttery’s departure. He said, “The city of Woodland Park has been fortunate to have the steady direction of David and we’ll miss him.”
A long career with Woodland Park
Buttery was originally hired in 1997 as the city’s public works director. He worked under two previous city administrations, and gained quite a reputation for manning some significant infrastructure projects. He then finally got the call to become the head city boss, about 10 years ago, when several other top applicants from outside the area, opted not to take the job. He became the first city manager in recent years that was promoted from another position within the city. Previously, the council generally picked a head manager from outside the state, such as previous city bosses Don Howell and Mark Fitzgerald.
During his tenure as city manager, Buttery was at the helm of the government’s operations during the disastrous Waldo Canyon fire in 2012.This blaze tested the city’s resources and patience of area residents, as many people were stranded for nearly two weeks. In some ways, Woodland Park became a sole communication hub for many citizens, with the regional media and emergency personnel cut off from the area. Buttery was lauded for his handling of this crisis.
Prior to that disaster, Buttery got his political feet wet real quick during an earlier furor over new sign regulations that brought much unfavorable publicity to the city by the Denver media. This led to a new sign code, following extensive negotiations with business owners, but resulted in a few political scars and many screaming matches.
Buttery, though, is mostly known, for helping to spearhead efforts for a new aquatic center. Initially, the city mulled a sales tax increase to fund an elaborate recreation center, an effort that actually was pursued by Levy and a group of citizens as a ballot proposal. Local citizens, though, strongly rebuffed this proposed rec center tax hike.
Buttery then heavily supported the campaign orchestrated by the Woodland Aquatic Project, which mainly concentrated on developing a top-rate pool hub and not a recreation center. This path was cemented when voters heavily approved a ballot issue for a $10.1 million construction project for an aquatic center in 2014, with no tax increases.
The last two years, however, have been tough for the city manager politically, with a highly divided council. No politician or bureaucrat in the area has been the feature of more front-page stories in our newspaper than David Buttery.
Supporters of Buttery praised him for his civic involvement and his hands-on management style. Buttery was a familiar fixture at many local events, fund-raisers and other community functions. He was a member of the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce board of directors and heavily supported and organized many pro-veteran events in the area, including a 9/11 ceremony and special military galas on certain holidays.
Critics, though, contend that Buttery wielded way too much power and pursued too many high-cost plans. Several council members hit the red alert button, when the city had a very low reserve account at the close of 2016, which even plummeted below that of some tiny towns, like Green Mountain Falls. The city manager also clashed with certain key members of the Downtown Development Authority and the Main Street board.
In any case, the new head manager will have some big shoes to fill. Buttery is the longest-serving city manager for Woodland Park in the last three decades. City leaders have vowed to have a transparent process in selecting a new city head boss.