Whos’ There: Tom Gorges
BRECKENRIDGE – Tom Gorges has lived in many a city in many a country – Germany, the Philippines and Vietnam among them – but Colorado has the firmest grip on his heart.Gorges was born in Andale, Kan., on a wheat and dairy farm from which, he says, he was fortunate to have had the good grades and athleticism to win an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.That was to be the start of a 30-year career in the military, the Breckenridge resident said.He graduated in 1965 with a degree in engineering and stayed on for his first assignment – as a graduate coach of the football team. After that, he pursued his master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.And he returned to the Air Force as a civil engineer.”Civil engineering was more practical; it made more sense,” he said. “It’s putting things together – no matter if you’re building roads, structures, sanitary facilities – you get to see things come up out of the ground. You get to see things being created.”In the Air Force, he was able to work as a young officer in design and work his way up the ladder: management, policy, resource use and funding and commanding troops.
He did a tour of duty in Vietnam and another in the first Persian Gulf War, but returned to work in the environmental realm of engineering.Much of his work involved pollution prevention, environmental remediation and planning and restoration. He ended his Air Force career in charge of 400 professionals who provided contracts and management and scientific capabilities for the Air Force environmental programs.Examples of his work included evaluating the environmental impacts of, say, putting a new type of airplane at a base. Would there be more noise? Would additional cleanup be required?”How do you describe a 30-year career?” he said. “From policy making to commanding airmen to combat engineering to fighting battles in the Pentagon and with Congress to justify your environmental projects. It was kind of a combination of a city manager and a city engineer.”His favorite aspects as a base engineer were preparing people to deploy, and seeing projects come to fruition – a task that sometimes proved daunting.”You have to work your programs through the Pentagon and Congress, prove they’re viable and justifiable.”Sometimes, politics stand in the way.”It’s a little frustrating to see a project that’s really needed out there and sometimes it slips through the cracks for a while, while some congressman’s pet project gets through,” Gorges said.
Gorges retired in 1995 to work for Jacobs Engineering, where he manages about 20 projects involving environmental remediation. Some included ground water treatment facilities, building air infiltration systems to oxidize contaminants in the soil and monitoring water.In 1999, he left to join Talisman Partners of Englewood, a construction and environmental cost engineering firm.”I always wanted to get back to Colorado,” he said. “And I had the opportunity to retire.”He did so in 2000 after Talisman was acquired by another company. Now he day trades on S&P futures and spends his time hiking with friends.Despite years in the environmental realm, Gorges admits he doesn’t know everything about some of the contentious environmental issues being decided at the federal level.”I don’t think anything this administration has done has been detrimental to the environment,” he said. “I don’t know of any action taken that has been clearly devastating.”Instead, he sees work that needs to be done locally.
“I’ve done a lot of hikes,” Gorges said. “I see our forests need some cleanup up, some thinning. I read about the opposition and the administration’s attempts to do something … Something needs to be done.”He believes thinning and managing the forests and developing future water development plans are of utmost importance in Colorado.”That’s a biggie,” he said. “And what’s being done? Nothing, except talk about it.”Gorges laughed when asked if he had a yearning to go into politics.Instead, he’s satisfied with his life in Breckenridge, his wife, Luz Dary – she works for the county Social Services Department – and Summit High School senior step-son Andrew Quinonez, his hiking, biking and skiing.He likes Breckenridge in particular because it’s a quaint old town that grew up first as a town, then as a ski resort.There have been points in my life where I was traveling all over and I always come back here.”Jane Stebbins can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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