John Scarffe, Nederland. Former Nederland Town Administrator Alisha Reis said her greatest accomplishment in that position was creating a team environment among Town employees. Reis had her last day as administrator on March 3, 2017.
She was still in her office cleaning and getting ready for the new town administrator until her last hour on the job.
The longest-serving town administrator in Nederland’s history, Reis served 6 ½ years in the position. At 5 p.m. on March 3, Town employees, friends and family packed James Peak Barbecue to celebrate her last day and her years of achievement with the Town. Mayor Kristopher Larsen named March 3 Alisha Reis Day in Nederland.
Reis heard speeches in her honor at the event and received certificates and gifts. Town Marshal Paul Carrill presented her with a plaque naming her as an honorary police officer.
As a youngster, Reis lived outside of Houston. She was part of a construction family and also lived in Arizona before moving to Colorado. “I landed here my sophomore year of high school,” Reis said.
Her mother did dry wall finishing for a living and was also an artist. Her stepdad did iron work, and they moved here so he could work on the construction of Denver International Airport. Reis has been in Colorado for 26 years and graduated from Wheatridge High School.
Reis earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Metropolitan State University and a master’s degree in public policy in 2008 from the University of Colorado-Denver. Prior to work in local government, she was in journalism for ten years.
Before coming to Nederland, Reis specialized in land use planning and communications in Monte Vista before moving up to assistant city manager there. She stayed there for five years and headed up the department for community development.
“I might go back for my Ph.D. and get into college instruction,” Reis said. She has already taught college-level courses in ethics.
Reis came to Nederland on September 6, 2010, the day of the Four Mile Fire. She was supposed to start the next day, so she met Police Chief Ken Robinson, who took her to the command center for the fire. Then she went to the Community Center for a potluck.
“I was sworn in at the hardest time of folks’ lives,” Reis said. People had just been evacuated from their homes. She was there most of the night.
“It was an interesting parallel with the Cold Springs Fire, and this time I knew most of the people,” Reis said, so she went around hugging people.
Reis said one of her greatest accomplishments as town administrator has been working with the staff to create a team environment in which they all support each other in serving the Town. She has tried to help staff members grow in their positions with staff development and strong support.
“When you invest in people you work with, you get better service,” Reis said. “I’ve been successful investing in the people, and then they have the interest to serve the public. Our Town Hall and facilities are very welcoming.
This is an improvement over when she came here. Before, it was not always easy to access services. Now, if anyone asks any staff member, that employee will be able to point them in the right direction. “We are here for our community. Otherwise we’re not necessary,” Reis said.
Reis also worked to update the Town infrastructure, which was 40 years behind in roadways and plants. “We caught up at least 20 years,” Reis said. Improvements have included the wastewater treatment plant, pipeline repairs and the new Town Maintenance Shop, which officially opened on February 24. In 2014, the Town won grant funds for an infrastructure plan to inform streets and sewers.
Reis has also stabilized the finances and set the Town up for long-term financial health. She said she is a fiscal conservative, and that has helped with annual and long-term financial plans. The Town has a comprehensive plan that was updated and a financial plan to care for these things to assure that the Town has the resources to keep up.
“We’ve come light years in improving the community,” Reis said, and added that work still needs to be done on the roadways and storm water drainage. “It’s hard for people to understand how complex working in a government can be. ‘Why can’t we just build that?’ they ask. It takes a lot of steps, and you have to map out those steps and then take each step.”
For example, she worked with the Housing Authority to position the Town for new buildings. “It took 100 steps that people don’t see,” Reis said.
Reis has a lot of great memories from her time with the Town. One of her greatest successes was opening the new Town Shop to the public and hearing from staff that it will be great to repair things without lying in the mud, she said. The Town keeps a lot of expensive equipment on road and it will be nice to have a place for it.
Now the space where the old shop is can be used for housing. The Town had to jump over a lot of hurdles, and it took many years to get that done, Reis said.
She will also remember the Cold Springs Fire and helping her neighbors during a very hard time. “When I’ve been able to see our staff care for people in the community, that’s why I liked this job,” Reis said.
“Definitely our community has made great improvements over the years,” Reis said. “Change is hard, especially when the economy changes. Nederland has a tradition of caring for people. They will haul other people out of a ditch.”
It’s important to recognize the culture the Town wants to keep here, while moving through necessary change, Reis said. “You’re not always going to make people happy. You see your neighbors at the grocery store, and even if you’ve had a disagreement with them, they’re still your neighbors. You can still love them, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with them.”
Some of her experiences on the job have not always been pleasant. Once she had to announce to the community that one of the Board members was indicted for public corruption charges, Reis said.
“That was unfortunate and painful to have to tell people that,” Reis said, but the community needs to know that behavior is not welcome here. She has also had to come to work through natural disasters, but the staff knows how to carry the community through those.
Reis said it’s bitter sweet to leave the town administrator job. “I feel that I have given what I could to this community.” Her family has supported her through two demanding positions, and now she needs some uninterrupted time with her family, especially with her daughter graduating from high school.
“I’d like to thank everyone for letting me serve the community and for my family supporting me,” Reis said. “I’m glad to still be here in town. I’m happy to see that the Board of Trustees received some good candidates.”
Reis said she will come back in jeans and flip flops to orient the new town administrator. She has left the new person four pages of notes. “It’s important that they succeed,” Reis said.