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New executive director for Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments to take over in February

December 22, 2017 Updated: December 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm
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photo - Andy Gunning
Andy Gunning 

For the better part of a decade Andy Gunning has worked on a local scale, he said, balancing direction from the city leaders in Rockville, Md.

But now Gunning said he's ready to work at a regional scale as the next executive director for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

After nearly a yearlong search, the council's board of directors offered Gunning the position last week. The position was left open after the board fired Rob MacDonald in January. A lack of urgency in raising funds for the effort to widen Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock and a high turnover rate within the agency were cited as reasons for MacDonald's firing. The PPACG also investigated complaints from former employees before the termination.

The PPACG consists of public officials from across the region and helps 16 member governments collaborate on projects including transportation and population planning and caring for senior citizens.

Currently working as Rockville's acting director of planning and development services, Gunning said he previously spent about 12 years working for a council of governments in Tucson, Ariz.

He said he is looking forward to focusing on the bigger picture again.

"I kind of missed working at that regional scale and I thought this was a great opportunity," Gunning said.

Jessica McMullen, spokeswoman for the PPACG, said Gunning was one of about 130 applicants and he will make $154,000 a year as executive director. MacDonald's annual salary was $136,654.

Norm Steen, chairman of the executive director search committee and Teller County commissioner, said the decision to hire Gunning was not unanimous, but he was the preference of a "clear majority."

Gunning will start in his new position Feb. 20, allowing him time to finish ongoing projects in Rockville, a suburb of the Washington, D.C., area that he said frequently wrestles above its weight class.

"There are a lot of high expectations for excellent public service here," he said by phone from Rockville. "I've been here for about seven years, making sure I'm getting our department aligned with what it is our mayor, city council and city manager want to accomplish."

Affordable housing, permitting processes, infrastructure and transportation issues alongside local schools' capacity problems are all under Gunning's current purview, he said. And coming into the new position with the PPACG, he expects transportation to take up a significant amount of his time.

Indeed, Steen said one of Gunning's first tasks will be hiring a transportation director. Steen said he and the rest of the board want to hand Gunning a list of qualified candidates for the position and allow him to select the best fit. That decision might be made within the first three months of Gunning's tenure, Steen said.

Board members also will show Gunning around the area and introduce him to the member governments so he can better understand the community he'll be serving, Steen said.

"He'll be having discussions with area mayor, city councils, boards of commissioners," Steen said.

Those conversations will precede the creation of a PPACG strategic plan, Steen said, which will better define the organization's direction and goals for the next two decades.

Coordinating joint land use studies with the five military bases in the area also will be an important aspect of the position, Gunning predicted.

"We'll make sure the bases are meeting their needs but not impacting the community adversely," he said.

Through those types of coordinating efforts, Gunning said councils of governments often don't receive the credit they're due. He calls it "incredibly important and impactful" work.

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