No plan, no problem for longtime Steamboat II Metro District manager
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the first time in more than 25 years, longtime Steamboat Springs resident Doug Baker admits he doesn’t have a plan.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Baker said as he pushed back in his chair in the office of the Steamboat II Metropolitan District office where he works. “We really don’t have a plan. My wife is going to retire at the same time, and for the first time in our life, we really don’t know what we are going to do.”
The Bakers have left a mark on the community. Doug has been with the metro district for more than 25 years, and Sheri has worked at the accounting firm of Tredway, Henion, Palmquist and Kusy, PC for 20 years. They shrug their shoulders when asked what they plan to do after retirement.
Doug said maybe they will jump into his 35-foot motor home and head south for part of the winter or maybe he will hang around his home and restore his 1976 GL 1800 Honda Gold Wing or a classic 1964 Bridgestone motorcycle, which have been on his to-do list for a few years.
No matter where retirement leads, Baker said he will always be proud of what the Steamboat II Metropolitan District has been able to accomplish since he stepped into the manager’s position in 1992.
“We wanted to make the place better for everyone, and I think that we have done that,” Baker said. “It’s not just me — there is a whole crew that has helped with this thing.”
“He was the district,” said Jay Clapper, vice president of the board of directors. “He lived and breathed the district as far as I could tell. We moved here in 1991, and he’s been here through all the changes.”
Baker was on his way out when he was asked to take the reins of the Steamboat II Water and Sanitation District in the early 1990s. He had been on the board as vice president in charge of operations for two terms but was struggling to find time to deal with the issues facing the district and run his downtown auto parts store at the same time. He ended up selling Baker Auto Parts to take on the Steamboat II manager’s role.
At that time, the district was struggling to keep up with the demand for water in the Steamboat II subdivision west of town that included about 200 lots. Baker said the wells could not keep up with demand at peak periods, and the quality of the water was not ideal.
“We looked into building our own water treatment plants and several different options,” Baker said. “We looked for a lot of different water sources — an engineer with Civil Design Consultants and myself. We came up with the best solution, which was to approach the city of Steamboat and see if we could buy some water from them.”
In 1993, the district and city reached an agreement and a 12-inch main was installed from West Acres to where the Silver Spur subdivision was built a few years later.
But that was not the only change the district would see under Baker’s management.
In 1997, voters living in Steamboat II overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that created a metropolitan district and allowed it to start a parks and recreation department. That same year, Heritage Park was approved, and a short time later, development at Silver Spur began, and the district doubled in size.
“We started a parks and recreation department in ’98 with me, a $5,000 budget and a Sears garden tractor,” Baker said.
But within a few years, Baker jokes he created a “monster” — a parks system that would include re-building Sears Park, adding an additional pocket park, expanding the district’s hiking and cross-country trails to encompass eight miles and constructing two very popular sledding hills and an outdoor ice skating rink.
Baker’s staff includes four full-time employees and a part-time bookkeeper. Baker and a five-member board of directors work together to manage the district’s budget, which in 2018 totalled $180,000.
Baker’s son, Chase, who currently serves as the district’s parks and recreation supervisor, will take the helm when his dad steps down at the end of December.
“Chase has been with the district for more than 10 years and has been a really big part of making parks and recreation what it is today,” Baker said.
“It’s really exciting and a little spooky at the same time,” Baker said of retiring. “We are programmed to work. The idea of not working is really exciting, but it’s going to be a major adjustment for sure.”
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