Wednesday, November 7, 2007

LeBlanc poised for move to Colorado

Durango City Council scheduled to vote last night

Express Staff Writer

Ron LeBlanc

As things stood at press deadline last night, Ketchum was one small step away from losing its city administrator.

Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc on Friday signed and returned an employment agreement to the city of Durango, Colo., whose leaders unanimously voted Oct. 23 to offer him the position of city manager. He was selected from a nationwide search among more than 100 candidates and three finalists.

The Durango City Council was scheduled to consider the employment agreement in executive session Tuesday evening, and LeBlanc said he could not comment definitively until he's heard back regarding the council's decision.

But it appears that transition is imminent for LeBlanc, as well as for both resort cities.

"I'm a little apprehensive about the move," LeBlanc told The Durango Herald. "I have a lot of things to do, and the more I think about it the more things there are."

LeBlanc said in a Tuesday morning telephone interview that he and his wife, Mary Ann, consider Colorado to be their home.

"We're both graduates of the University of Colorado at Boulder," he said. "We have lots of friends in Colorado, and we've been in touch with many of them."

Among the factors weighing into his decision to move is the cost of living in the Wood River Valley.

"If I were hired now I could not afford the house we're in," he said, referring to his Hailey home.

And that is despite his $153,102 salary in Ketchum.

"At this point in my career, you have to look at where you want to be when you retire," he said. "With the circumstances of that move, that's a life decision. I love it here in the Wood River Valley, and I love it here in Ketchum. But once I retire I could not afford to live here, even at my salary."

Barring unforeseen circumstances, LeBlanc said the move to Durango will be his last professional stop before retirement, and working for another decade will help him meet people and build a social network leading into retirement.

According to The Durango Herald, only a few details of LeBlanc's contract were released. If hired, he will start an annual salary of $136,114 with retirement and health benefits. He will also have use of a vehicle and cellular telephone on the city's tab.

The contract also includes $25,000 in moving expenses.

LeBlanc said Tuesday he was impressed with Durango's recruitment and selection process.

"They conducted a national search," he said. "They, the City Council, are very interested in taking the time to make the right decision, to keep the public involved, to keep it transparent. And things worked slowly."

He said it was similar to the process by which he was hired in Ketchum in the spring of 2002 during the Mayor Ed Simon administration.

"Ketchum had a recruiter, a national search. People came from various places in the country," he said. "Here, the public involvement was incredible. The interview panel that hired me had 20 people on it."

LeBlanc's anticipated start date in Durango is Jan. 7, 2008.

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