Respected, 22-year veteran of building department enjoying private sector
Steamboat Springs — Celeste Bacon supervised construction projects in the Routt County Building Department as it grew from a small office that handled approximately $2 million a year in the late 1970s to $400 million in annual construction in the late 1990s. And she did it with a smile, endearing herself to hundreds of contractors in the process.
Although Bacon, 52, was easily recognized in her usual plain white T-shirt, blue jeans and work boots, she was best known for her steady grin, one that reflected good humor and patience,
Bacon ended a 22-year career with the building department when she resigned last month to take a job with Fox Construction where she gets to be out in the field, instead of tied to a desk.
“I’m on the other side now. Instead of processing it, I’m making it work,” she said. “There’s days I come in at 7 a.m. and hit the ground running. I may meet in the field with architects or subcontractors to bring all phases of a project together.”
Bacon said her days are non-stop, but not filled with the stress she experienced at the building department.
“I can leave here at night and I don’t carry it home,” she said. “I was ready for a change. I have a lot of knowledge I’ve gained over the years and it’s nice to apply my practical experience.”
Building Official Mark Marchus said Bacon was probably one of the most conscientious people he’s worked with.
“Tom Fox is getting one heck of an employee. With the level of dedication she has and her professional work ethic, she will do well wherever she goes,” Marchus said.
Although it’s a significant loss, Marchus said the building department will be able to rebound from Bacon’s resignation to face a busy construction season. Dana Seidenberg, an eight-year veteran of the office, was promoted to Bacon’s old job that of supervising permit technician.
In that position, Bacon would spend hours with developers and contractors to get their permits processed for projects ranging in size from the 327-unit Grand Summit Hotel at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area to a room addition on a house in Yampa.
“I saw an incredible amount of growth in Steamboat Springs and it was exciting to be a part of that,” Bacon said.
She said leaving the building department took two years of contemplation. After a bad car wreck that injured her back, her doctor and physical therapist encouraged her to consider a career change.
“When you’re the first car in the parking lot in the morning and the last to leave at night, it makes you think,” she said. “I had some burnout after all those years, but I loved working with the new building official and that encouraged me to stay.”
That building official, Marchus, agreed that the job can be stressful.
“Construction is a very fast-paced industry and sometimes we in government would like to slow that down a bit. We get pressure to keep up with their pace and Celeste did a very good job of keeping that pace,” Marchus said.
Snow Country Construction President Mark Halvorson said Bacon kept the building department running smoothly in her two decades there.
“I think it says it all that the first three contractors Celeste called asking for reference letters instead offered her a job,” Halvorson said. “Dependability, trust, loyalty and competency are a combination difficult to find in employees today, much less to have all four in one employee.”
Halvorson complimented Bacon on her ability to solve problems.
“I loved working with people and making things work,” Bacon said. “Even the most difficult thing can be resolved, and to see those people on the street and know you helped resolve that situation that rapport with architects and developers is important.”
Bacon’s new boss, Tom Fox, said she earned a reputation as a fair and honest person in a sometimes difficult job with the building department.
“She knew when to be firm and she knew when to be soft a characteristic very difficult to find in today’s world,” Fox said.
County Commissioner Dan Ellison hired Bacon in 1977 when he was the planning director.
“As far as I’m concerned, she was one of the best employees at the county over the years,” Ellison said. “Her loyalty, dealing with people, ability to do a job that kept getting more complex, Celeste did an excellent job of making it go smoothly.”
Several inspectors and officials have come and gone in the building department, but Bacon remained a constant fixture. Michael Roberts, with Habitat Design and Construction, said Bacon knows more about the building code than most of the builders in town.
Roberts said she has a unique ability to enforce procedure and make customers understand her efforts to keep the process moving.
“Not only is Celeste a highly skilled office manager, but she combines extremely effective people skills with her breadth of office skills. That stems from the fact that she sincerely cares about her customers. She is always willing to go the extra mile to smooth the road for her colleagues as well as us builders,” Roberts said.
Bacon was born in Steamboat Springs to Del and Marie Del Haute and has two children of her own. Barbara works for a software company in Denver and Jim is a plumber in Steamboat.
She briefly considered moving to Denver, but Bacon said it was important to stay in her hometown and be part of a successful company like Fox Construction.
“We have the best people working here and everybody works so well as a team,” she said. “I want to be part of that team.”
To reach Michelle Bales call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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