Friends, colleagues remember Stahoviak, whose caring spirit served Routt County for more than two decades
This week, Nancy Stahoviak’s friends and colleagues are remembering her as a community-minded politician who set an example for what a public servant should be.
“She was a dedicated public servant, and when you’re a dedicated public servant, you work all the time and you always work for the good of all, not for your own reputation, or your ego, or anything like that,” said Diane Mitsch Bush, a longtime friend who was a former Routt County Commissioner from 2007-12 and a member of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2013-17. “That’s what makes you happy.”
Stahoviak, 74, died of natural causes on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at the Doak Walker Care Center at Casey’s Pond. She is survived by her longtime husband, Ron, who lives in Routt County, and son, Chad, who still lives in Colorado.
Noreen Moore first met Stahoviak as part of an effort to find support for a preschool in Oak Creek.
“There were a couple of people that wanted to create a preschool that was called ‘Little Friends,’” Moore remembered. “Nancy was involved in that, as well as myself — although I was more peripheral. We had children, and we were involved in the community.”
Stahoviak helped the preschool gain footing and eventually find a home in a new community building that was being constructed at the time to house a number of different organizations.
“Nancy and I got involved with the building and became the treasurer and financial officer, and she did an absolutely fabulous job,” Moore recalled.
The experience was not Stahoviak’s last taste of public service.
From there, she gained a position on the Oak Creek Town Board and eventually earned a spot as a Routt County Commissioner in 1993. She beat out Moore’s late husband, Dinty, who was also vying for the seat.
“He decided that he would run for commissioner that year, and then Nancy threw her hat into the ring, and I knew that was that she would win — and indeed she did,” Moore said. “She was never a politician, and she really did live to be a public servant.”
Moore and Stahoviak became lifelong friends who knew the importance of community. Moore said her husband never held any ill will toward her friend, saying that losing the election to her was just part of living in a small town.
Kathi Meyer met Stahoviak in 1997 when the two worked as board members for the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, which was the predecessor of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
“She was a county commissioner at the time, and I had just moved to the city of Steamboat and was a planning commissioner,” said Meyer, who went on to be a member of Steamboat Springs City Council and was also on the planning commission for 15 years.
Meyer said Stahoviak’s passion for government was driven by her desire to help the people living in the valley.
“Changing lives, that’s what Nancy was all about,” Meyer said. ”She really cared about people. … She was the most prepared in any meeting — whether it was the housing authority or a county commissioner meeting. It just seemed like she had a photographic memory, and she could always remember things from years ago.”
Former County Manager Tom Sullivan owes the job he held for 19 years to Stahoviak, who was outspoken about the need for a county manager
Prior to Sullivan, who retired in 2020, the county had gone away from having a manager. However, Stahoviak and the other commissioners at the time thought it was a good idea to bring one back and hired Sullivan in March 2001.
“Nancy was just a strong person,” Sullivan said. “She studied everything, she was detail oriented and she had a memory that really served her well.”
He said she had a great deal of experience that showed through in just about any situation brought in front of her. He said she would almost always have a good idea about how to move the community forward.
“She knew it took a team to make the kind of decisions that a county government needs to make for its citizens,” he said.
During her 20 years on commission, Stahoviak took on issues ranging from child care to housing. She dealt with gravel pits and developments, and was among those that helped create a airport advisory commission.
Stahoviak also helped forge ideas that created urban development, while protecting the agricultural lands around the city with initiatives like purchase of development rights, and the land preservation subdivision programs.
Mitsch Bush said Stahoviak often supported efforts to reduce the county’s carbon footprint, and she was on commission when the then-new Routt County Justice Center was built to include a solar array on the roof.
“It was the deepest pleasure and honor to work with Nancy Stahoviak,” Mitsch Bush said. “If she had not been a county commissioner, our valley floor would not look the way it does now, and we would not have the attention to child care in our community … She was a champion of the environment. She was so open-minded, but above everything else, she had the most incredible work ethic.”
Meyer would visit Stahoviak at the Doak Walker Care Center, where the two often shared a game of Yahtzee. She said Stahoviak should be remembered for everything she brought to the community, but for Meyer, the public leader was so much more.
“There were times when she was at the Doak when the staff, because I was there so much, assumed I was family,” Meyer said. “For me, she was like an older sister that I never had.”
Meyer said there is no public service planned, and the family is asking for privacy at this time.
“That was at Nancy’s wish,” Meyer said. “She’s a very humble person, and she didn’t want any fuss made over her.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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A big blizzard, which covered the Colorado high country with snow on Friday, impacted travel into the early morning hours on Saturday.