Severson leaving NWCCOG Jan. 1 | SummitDaily.com
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Severson leaving NWCCOG Jan. 1

BOB BERWYN
summit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY – After 11 years at the helm, Gary Severson is leaving his position as director of a regional governmental organization to pursue other opportunities. His resignation is effective Jan. 1.

Severson led the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments during the emerging pine beetle epidemic and helped forge a strong collaborative partnership among affected counties, leveraging funding and political clout to try and address forest health issues.

“I have a burning desire to be involved in at least one more great challenge in my professional career before thinking about retirement,” Severson said in a letter announcing his decision. “I am not retiring, but clearing the deck, so to speak, to give myself freedom to pursue opportunities as they arise.”

Severson has been involved in collaborative community processes for his entire career, beginning with the issue of school desegregation in Denver Public Schools. Part of his career focused on developing tools for meaningful public participation in natural resource decisions, and he also worked Amoco Oil Company to help build community consensus on the siting of facilities.

The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is a voluntary association of county and town governments in Summit, Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Jackson counties, working together toward common regional goals. Banding as a group helps magnify the political influence of the sparsely populated mountain areas on the state and federal playing field.

Severson played a leading role in the “Building Bridges” effort that vastly improved collaboration between local governments and the U.S. Forest Service. That program paved the way for later cooperation on pine beetle and forest health issues, as expressed by a regional bark beetle cooperative.

Although the organization works mostly behind the scenes, some of its activities have a direct impact on the lives of local residents, with a weatherization program being a prime example. Additionally, the group has sponsored several important studies that guide local government policies. Some of the research on housing and employment has provided fundamental data for government decision making.

A 2009 cost-of-living study helps illustrate the relative cost of housing in mountain communities across the region. Aspen tops the list in every category, with Frisco, Vail and Breckenridge consistently showing up in the top 10 in nearly every category.

Behind the scenes, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments also sponsors QQ, an important water organization working on issues like abandoned mine cleanups in the Snake River Basin and a potential Wild and Scenic River designation for part of the Colorado River and tributaries in this region. Under Severson’s leadership, the council has been able to access grant funds for various water projects.

Severson emphasized his western roots in a resignation letter and said he wants to be part of a growing grassroots movement of local democracy in the West.

“My desire is to throw one hundred percent of my remaining energies into helping build collaborative associations of people from diverse backgrounds, interests and organizations to more cooperatively and effectively manage the vast lands and resources of the West in harmony with the people and communities sharing the landscape with them,” Severson said.


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