Former Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison dies at 73
Steamboat Springs — Former three-term Routt County commissioner and Hayden town manager Dan Ellison died Oct. 3 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 73.
Doug Monger, current chairman of the Routt County Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday a significant part of Ellison’s legacy will be the work he did on the creation of important planning tools still used to preserve open space and traditional agricultural practices.
With former county commissioners Nancy Stahoviak and Ben Beall, Ellison helped to advance the county’s Land Preservation Subdivision ordinance, which incentivizes developers to cluster homes within rural subdivisions, leaving hay meadows intact. In addition, Ellison helped put the Purchase of Development Rights tax before voters — who embraced it — as a way to put permanent conservation easements in place on ag lands.
Beall said Wednesday Ellison helped to prevent urban sprawl in the county and to protect viewscapes.
“We were able to work together coming from different positions in setting urban growth boundaries for our municipalities and skyline regulations, among many of the important land-use decisions of the booming late 1990’s,” he said.
Stahoviak praised Ellison for his thoughtful approach to policy making.
“He had great ideas and a diverse background in energy development, public administrating and (county) planning,” Stahoviak said. “The thing about Dan was, he’d listen a lot, and when he opened his mouth to say something, you’d know it was important.”
Beall said Ellison understood government and its relevance to a well-functioning society.
“Dan was a fiscal conservative but understood the importance of land-use planning and the importance of directing growth to our municipal areas,” he said.
Ellison informed the Routt County Republican Party in December 2005, well in advance of the 2006 elections, he would not seek a fourth four-year term in District 3 (comprising primarily the city of Steamboat Springs). His tenure on the Board of County Commissioners began in 1995.
“It’s been enjoyable, but there comes a time when you’re ready to leave,” Ellison told the Steamboat Pilot at the time.
Ellison’s career as a public servant spanned well beyond the dozen years spent on the Board of Commissioners.
After a stint beginning in 1969 as zoning administrator in Larimer County, he was hired to become the county’s zoning and planning administrator on Nov. 1, 1975.
In May 1984, Ellison was running his own energy consulting business from an office in Steamboat when he accepted a position as Hayden’s part-time (20 hours per week) town manager, earning $425 per week.
A native of Ohio and a Naval veteran of the Vietnam war era, Ellison held a bachelor’s degree in history, and in late summer 1975, earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado. Several months later, upon taking the job with the Routt County Planning Department, Ellison predicted the region would see increased demand for energy development.
“I believe that Routt County should be aware of both the problems and the benefits and find ways in which it can best respond to them,” he told the Steamboat Pilot.
Stahoviak said Ellison also worked hard to support the development of Yampa Valley Regional Airport while looking for ways to lessen the impact of funding the airport on the county’s general fund. But he always kept his perspective.
“Dan had a really laid back style, and one of the things I really liked about Dan was that he had a really dry sense of humor. In politics, and sticky situations, it’s always good to inject a little humor, and Dan was good at that.”
Ellison leaves his wife, Kitty, and two adult daughters, Jenny and Clare, as well as three grandchildren. A memorial service is tentatively planned for spring 2016 in Steamboat.
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