public works

Mark Kennefick, Justin Franklin, Rich Estes, Paul Ruud and Jason Smart of the Telluride Public Works Department enjoy a BBQ together. Ruud retired after 34 years with the town, including most recently as public works director. (Courtesy photo)

After 34 years of service to the Town of Telluride, public works director Paul Ruud retired recently. After a nationwide search for his replacement, town manager Scott Robson announced the hire of Kyle Beck, who leaves his position as infrastructure maintenance operations engineer for the City of Lakewood. Officially hired three weeks ago, Beck will move to town with his wife and two young boys to take charge of the public works department, beginning Aug. 22.

“Paul hired me three different times. He’s my anchor, a fantastic boss,” said streets and utilities superintendent Rich Estes, who arrived in Telluride at the same time as Ruud in the early 1980s. “But Paul always said, ‘change is good.’”

A “hard-working, driven, private person,” Ruud started his career with the town as a code enforcement officer and dogcatcher. In the past decade as public works director, Ruud established the Pandora and Mill Creek water plants, as well as the the wastewater treatment plant, while keeping streets in good condition, burying utilities, and implementing water and sewage upgrades.

“Paul has a capacity that’s outstanding as far as not only knowing the background and why things are the way they are but in understanding how they evolved,” town building and planning director Ron Quarles said. “He was a resource for everybody in terms of institutional knowledge.”

Last month Estes organized a low-key pizza luncheon with his streets crew to honor Ruud’s more than three decades of public service.

“These were Paul’s guys. Any facetime they could get with Paul was very valuable,” Estes said. “We all miss him tremendously.”

Through a national recruiter based in Colorado, 17 qualified applicants from six states, including Alaska and Rhode Island, vied for the director of public works position. Three candidates traveled to Telluride for an interview process that included three sets of written and oral interviews, as well as meet-and-greets with council, department heads and public works staff.

“It’s rare when you get the opportunity to hire a department head or a chief marshal in that kind of leadership role,” Robson said. “It might only come up once a decade. It’s a privilege to be able to build that team up and to put someone in place who will likely become a cornerstone in the community.”

Robson explained that Beck shined as a candidate given his technical experience with infrastructure, engineering, streets and utilities, and snow and ice control, given his experience in both the public municipal and private practice fields. Beck’s personality, energy and drive also distinguished him as a candidate.

“Kyle has a broad amount of experience, which will help the planning and building department,” Quarles added. “He’s been involved with geographical information systems (GIS), development review, and with building inspections and codes, and he has experience with 5G small cell infrastructure and floodplain administration.”

Beck worked fulltime for the City of Lakewood, while earning a civil engineering degree at the University of Colorado in Denver, addressing various projects and challenges in every public works department from water/sanitary sewer to street maintenance. After college, while working on projects in the private sector, Beck specialized in “design in mountain towns” — in Grand Lake and Granby in Colorado and in Yosemite National Park in California — because he wanted to live in the mountains.

In spite of committing the majority of his working life to the City of Lakewood, where he currently manages 45 employees across seven different divisions, Beck turned down the public works director position there to accept the job in Telluride.

“The job searches were going on at the same time, and I had to make a decision,” he explained. “I’ve always been a mountain person. I grew up in the mountains, and my dream has been to live where I work, and for all my efforts and dedication to not only benefit where I live but to benefit my family as well. I’ve never had that opportunity before, so this is a dream come true for me.”

As part of town’s Southwest Conceptual Plan, Robson said the Pacific Avenue improvements for cars, bikes and pedestrians will be an immediate project for Beck to tackle. Additionally, there will be expansions and improvements needed at the public works facility itself, including work on the transit barn and office spaces. Beck will assist the transit department with the electric vehicle bus fleet and will work to achieve goals related to accessibility and pedestrian routes throughout Main Street, and with general paving projects and infrastructure.

“The wastewater treatment plant is a major project with funding and design components that’s been looming for quite a few years,” Robson added.

While Beck anticipates addressing small town aging infrastructure, specifically to utilities, he agreed that it’s the “high dollar figure” expansion to the water treatment plant and its collection and distribution systems that will be his top priority upon arriving to town.

“My wife and two boys will light up Telluride,” he said. “We’re all very bubbly, and we love to meet people. I’m excited for this opportunity, and I’m going to give it my all.”