Summit County Government approves contract with former police chief to fill the open interim county manager position
Summit County government has welcomed a new member to lead its team.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Summit Board of County Commissioners approved the contract of a new interim county manager, Phil Gonshak.
Earlier this year, former county manager Scott Vargo announced he would be stepping down from the position he held for six years in order to move out of the county and join the city of Golden as its new city manager. Vargo worked for the county in various roles for over a span of 20 years.
Gonshak will temporarily fill the role until July 2023, at which time the county can either hire him permanently or hire a new candidate.
The county did not disclose Gonshak’s salary as of deadline Tuesday.
Gonshak will be moving from Seal Beach, California, where he worked at the Seal Beach Police Department for over a decade, beginning in 2007. There, Gonshak served as a police officer, corporal, sergeant, commander, and a SWAT team commander. He is currently the chief of police.
County communications director David Rossi said former town of Breckenridge police chief Rick Holman “set a tone” that paved the way for Gonshak’s appointment. Holman is now Breckenridge’s town manager, and Rossi said he has done a notable job in the position.
Gonshak holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Long Beach. He also is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute, the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Point Leadership Program and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
In recent years, Gonshak has held a part-time professor position at both Long Beach City College and California State University.
Gonshak’s contract with the county begins in November, and Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she is excited to start working with him.
Lawrence added that Gonshak’s extensive experience with a tourism community makes him perfect for the job. Tourism community experience was a high priority on Lawrence’s wish list during the search for a new county manager.
“Certainly my priorities were someone that understood a tourism economy and what that means with its different challenges,” Lawrence said. “Secondary was their leadership qualities … someone that’s a positive leader, a consensus builder, and someone that really has strong, strong leadership qualities.”
Gonshak also understands the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawrence said. Instead of mountains, he was in a tourist environment with beaches — but nevertheless, Lawrence found it important that Gonshak had a similar experience.
When it comes to one-on-one interaction, Rossi said he is “super approachable.”
“He immediately feels like a friend,” Lawrence added. “You can also see — he has a very steady, calm presence about him that I think will be really, really helpful in leadership and leading our team,” Lawrence said.
However, it’s a bit too early to say whether he will stay on for the long term, Lawrence said.
“We’re excited to be under contract with him through the end of July, and (we) certainly hope that — in whatever position — he has some longevity with Summit County,” Lawrence said. “That’s a big move. But we’re excited to have him here — and his family.”
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