Frisco appoints Tony O’Rourke as new town manager
O’Rourke previously worked with former Town Manager Nancy Kerry in South Lake Tahoe
Filling the shoes of Nancy Kerry, who announced her resignation as Frisco town manager in April, is Tony O’Rourke. Frisco Town Council unanimously approved the appointment during its regular meeting Tuesday, July 13.
O’Rourke also replaces Jeff Durbin, former town manager of Fraser in nearby Grand County, who became interim Frisco town manager in May. Durbin applied for the Frisco position in 2016 and again for the vacancy this year. Durbin said in an interview Wednesday, July 14, that he is now working on his transition plans to move on to his next adventure.
“It was an honor and a pleasure serving Frisco and working with the good people in the organization and the community,” Durbin said. “… I fully support their decision, and I think this is a great community and everybody will do well.”
Mayor Hunter Mortensen, Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Burley and council member Rick Ihnken were absent from the Tuesday meeting, but council member Andrew Aerenson said they expressed their approval of O’Rourke.
“Speaking for council, for sure, we are excited to work with Tony O’Rourke and look forward to his arrival on scene,” council member Dan Fallon said at the meeting.
“I’m excited to have him here,” Aerenson added. “He has all of the makings of being a great town manager and being a great manager to us, to staff and to the community.”
O’Rourke has over 20 years of experience in tourism communities, such as Beaver Creek and Cañon City in Colorado; South Lake Tahoe, California; Yakima, Washington; and Coral Springs, Florida.
Kerry was O’Rourke’s assistant in South Lake Tahoe before replacing him as the city manager when he left for Yakima. Bill Efting, who was Frisco’s town manager from 2012 to 2017, knew O’Rourke when the two worked in Eagle County — Efting as the town manager for Avon and O’Rourke as the executive director of Beaver Creek. O’Rourke recommended to Efting that the town should hire Kerry as town manager, and then Efting repaid the favor this year when he alerted O’Rourke of the opening.
“Each of them expressed to me that it was the single best job they’ve ever had,” O’Rourke said. “That said a lot to me.”
A hiker, biker and snowshoer, O’Rourke is looking forward to returning to Colorado to enjoy the various recreational opportunities. He also likes how Frisco isn’t similar to other tourist destinations and that it has a sense of a community neighborhood feel.
“To me, it’s Wally World,” O’Rourke said, referencing the film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” “I’m thrilled. I like to balance my work and my play, so it’s an ideal opportunity for me.”
O’Rourke is also interested in the professional challenges the role provides, such as handling social equity, environmental sustainability, diversifying the economy and particularly affordable housing. He wants to explore more adaptive reuse — a concept that had him transform an old school in Cañon City to 56 affordable units, similar to The Alpine Inn becoming workforce housing — as well as ideas such as transferable developments rights and land banking.
“The town is moving in the right direction,” O’Rourke said. “Maybe we can look at additional tools and other best practices of other communities — not just Alpine resort communities. The same problems are afflicting places like Cape Cod, Hilton Head, the coastal portions of California, parts of Washington and Oregon. It’s not just unique to Alpine, upscale resorts. It’s pretty much a national issue in other destinations.”
His most recent job was as the city manager for Florida’s Panama City Beach, where he was abruptly terminated earlier this year after filing a whistleblower complaint. O’Rourke said the former mayor and former city manager allegedly spent over $50,000 of public money on a private piece of property to build a playground adjacent to Thomas’ son’s house.
“I have a problem with public dollars being spent for private purposes,” O’Rourke said. “It’s illegal.”
According to reporting done by Florida ABC news station WMBB News 13, the city claims that only $29,631 was spent, and Bay County Property Appraiser Dan Sowell told the station that the park belongs to the city. The station reports that an independent investigation found no laws broken.
Diane McBride, assistant town manager and recreation and culture director, will serve as the acting town manager until O’Rourke begins his duties Aug. 2.
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