by Kyle Stinnett
On July 29, Ashley Macdonald was able to celebrate her first 100 days as the Kremmling Town Manager.
Born in Littleton, Colorado, Macdonald moved to Loveland at nine months old and lived there until she was 21 years old. After starting a job with a real estate company in Wellington to grow her real estate career, Macdonald fell in love with the small-town vibes.
Macdonald told the story, “During that time, I learned that to be successful in real estate you either have to volunteer with a church or volunteer with a community group to help build your clientele. I became involved with a community group that was trying to build a park. At the time, a subdivision had given land to the town in order for the town to build a community park.
“Well,” Macdonald continued, “it wasn’t a priority for them (the town); however, it was important to a lot of the citizens. Being a 45-minute to an hour drive to the nearest park, I saw enormous value in this project. The council at the time said that they weren’t going to get a park built and that if I wanted to see one built I should run for election. So I did! And I won!
“So I was seated for four years and that is where I fell in love with local government. I caught the bug because when you are able to make a small impact on a community that improves the quality of life for a large group of people, it’s pretty cool.”
During an interview with Macdonald, she discussed what her first 100 days had been like so far. “Well, the first 100 days have been a lot about trying to get into the community to get to know everyone. I wanted to know what our strengths and weaknesses are, what projects may have been left unfinished and what it would look like to pick those back up and keep moving forward,” Macdonald remarked. “Kremmling is such a great community and kind of like a blank canvas with a lot of potential here.
“The element that drew me to this community is the sense of community that is here. While it’s really hard to define what a small town is, Kremmling is truly one of the last small towns left in Colorado. It has a genuine sense of community that hasn’t been overdeveloped by the commercial or tourism industries. You can come here and it’s very much family.”
Macdonald continued, “Our biggest challenges that I can see going into the future is asking the question: What do we need infrastructure-wise? We want to be able to support development in a way that balances out our sustainability.”
Macdonald said that looking at the town historically, there has been quite a bit of “boom and bust” and because of this, Kremmling doesn’t have a lot of property tax revenue to help support the town. When the sales tax revenue drops off, the income for the town decreases. By developing Kremmling just enough to raise property tax income for the town and bringing in more sales tax revenue, Macdonald hopes to fix this critical issue.
“We need to look at some of these long-term solutions economically to see if we can be sustainable long term,” Macdonald said. “What are those elements and what do we need to invest in the next 5 years?”
One of the bigger focuses of the town over the next 2 to 5 years is going to be the water treatment plant. “I would like to be a legacy, long-time town manager where I’m bringing in 20 plus years into this community. That means that coming into this community, I need to set up realistic expectations and goals. A lot of times town managers will come in with strategic plans and documents that will have 8 goals that, in all honesty, will take 10 years to complete.”
Macdonald is taking a scaled approach with the board during her first two years and developing a very realistic strategic planning process. “We are going to identify 1 to 3 goals within the community that we are going to accomplish in the next 2 years.”
Some of the plans of the town are to bring in some community engagement events. One of these will include a town hall event in which the board members will serve the community BBQ, while intermittently sitting down at tables with citizens to engage in an honest conversation about where the town is at. “People will be able to voice what we have done well, what we haven’t done well, what they want to see, or just sit and chat.”
The workforce and housing challenges have not been overlooked by Macdonald and her team. Macdonald decided when she went into office to start chipping away at this issue in-house first. She explained, “One of the problems that we have had here in the past is that we hire individuals to come work in the town who may not have the education or experience necessary to complete the job, and we expect them to perform at high levels. And they fail because we set them up to fail before they even get a chance to start, and that is not their fault.”
In efforts to help fix this issue, the board has agreed to allow Macdonald to grow a workforce plan where the town is growing and developing the employees from within the community. The goal would be to bring in individuals who might not necessarily have all of the skill sets required to complete the job at large and give them mentors and tools to learn the job for the town’s utmost success. “What you’ll see from this is employees that feel like they’re valued. You have invested a lot in them, which makes them want to stay.”
In an effort to avoid the “job security mentality,” Macdonald has put in place a plan in which each employee will train someone up as a backup for their position. The hope of this plan within the department will be to get employees acquainted with the big picture that the town is going after. “When you see it, say it, learn it, and teach it, you really grasp it,” Macdonald said. “We want to eliminate these gaps in redundancy where we are in trouble when people leave or when we have turnover. It’s been well received by the community and the board and so far, has been working extremely well.”
Another big project that has been a key role in Macdonald’s first 100 days is the housing project that is projected to be built behind the Muddy Creek Cabins in town. The project consists of a blend of 50 – 55 single-family and duplex units. Along with this, the town is working to address some crucial elements to bring in a strong local workforce. “Kremmling would love to be a part of some of the regional housing authorities and some of the partnerships going on, but unfortunately somewhere along the lines, we didn’t get invited to the party or we missed out on the opportunity. We feel like we are on our own.” Macdonald stated, “But we have some exciting options to address this locally and still leave the door open to integrate those into regional projects down the road.”
One of the other major projects that Macdonald sees to be a crucial step for the town to continue to excel in positive directions is a paving campaign. Brought on initially by Middle Park Health’s expansion of the hospital in Kremmling, along with paving the town in areas that desperately need it, the town is going to put in a path along the Mercantile for a pedestrian trail. “With some of our seniors enjoying a summer walk to the Merc, we want them to be safe traveling to and from,” Macdonald remarked.
Another exciting project that was discussed by Macdonald was the old pavilion in the town square. “This fall it is coming down!” Macdonald stated, “We are going to take it down this fall because we are committed to replacing it next spring. By taking it down, we are communicating to the community that we are going to place something safer in that location by Kremmling Days 2023.”
Starting as just a capital project for the town, Macdonald met some community members that had worked on designs and beautification projects for the town in the past. They asked if they could be reintegrated into the project to help get some engineering and design along with community collaboration on this project. There is a limited amount of time in which this group will be able to put something together, but if this group gets something turned into the town by this fall, the town will be able to get it out for bid and hopefully use that design as the new structure that will be placed in the square. “We are going to have a community plan and a backup Plan B just in case something doesn’t work out,” Macdonald said.
One of the biggest things that Macdonald has done in her first 100 days was reinventing the town’s website. Now it is user-friendly and an amazing resource for those in the community to know and see what is going on in the town. Check it out by going to www.townofkremmling.Colorado.gov.