Longtime Telluride resident Kari Distefano will take over as Rico town manager in May.
“Rico is such an interesting community, and I’m really looking forward to working with the town council and the residents,” she said. “I have a collaborative management style and like to hear what people think about things.”
Distefano will soon graduate with a degree in environmental planning from the University of New Mexico. She worked 12 years for San Miguel County as the assistant program coordinator for open space and recreation.
During that time, she was part of a project to renovate the old Placerville school house into a community center. Another accomplishment is the Colorado Highway 145 underpass built on the Galloping Goose trail for pedestrians, cyclists and employee housing residents.
She also was involved on a project to convert a gravel pit into Down Valley Park, which included ballfields, a beach area and bathrooms.
Distefano said she is ready for the challenges of Rico, a secluded mountain town of about 200 residents.
Looking into a building a central sewer system for town is one priority. Currently, all businesses and homes use septic systems, some of which are dated.
The Colorado Department of Health is taking more interest in regulating septic systems, Distefano said, because of their potential pollution threat.
“Not having central sewer is also something of a detriment to economic development,” she said. “I’d like to chase after grant funding and try to get central sewer at least along the highway through town.”
Distefano, an avid runner, skier and cyclist, also wants to promote outdoor activities.
“Getting more guided fishing and hunting clients to the area would help the economy,” she said.
Improving the town’s website and focusing on providing reliable internet service for businesses and residents are also on her to-do list.
“Internet service is a challenge for the region. I think there is some potential in partnering with other communities like Ophir,” Distefano said.
Pulling in more customers could be incentive for improved telecommunication infrastructure and service.
Rico has two nearby natural hot springs, but a recent study by the Colorado School of Mines concluded that it would be to develop them into a commercial venture, greenhouse, or a heat source for buildings.
Still, Distefano says there could be opportunity for a small hot spring resort, perhaps with a campground.
“I think the community wants to avoid a big resort, but is interested in small-scale economic development,” she said.
Distefano’s skills include grant writing, AutoCad and mapping.
Said Rico Mayor Barbara Betts, “Kari offers her valuable knowledge, connections, enthusiasm and hard work ethic to the challenges and opportunities of our small but vibrant community.”
In August, the Rico town board voted 5-0 to part ways with former town manager Michael England, but didn’t give a reason.