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Routt County hires coal mine veteran as its new environmental health director

Scott Cowman of Steamboat Springs was named Tuesday as Routt County’s new environmental health director, replacing Mike Zopf who retired in September.
Courtesy photo

New public health director

The Routt County Board of Commissioners, acting in its statutory role as the board of health, met Tuesday with representatives of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to discuss an agreement that would transfer the role of county public health (PHD) director to the VNA’s Charity Neal, a registered nurse and the VNA’s current public health director.

County Manager Tom Sullivan explained that former county environmental health director Mike Zopf, who retired in September, had held the PHD role for many years. When the state legislature passed a law in 2008 requiring that the person serving in that capacity have an education background in public health, the county obtained a waiver allowing him to continue in that role. The arrangement with the VNA will bring the county within current state requirements.

The matter next goes to the VNA board for its consideration.





Scott Cowman of Steamboat Springs was named Tuesday as Routt County’s new environmental health director, replacing Mike Zopf who retired in September.
Courtesy photo

— Scott Cowman, of Steamboat Springs, was named Tuesday as Routt County’s new environmental health director, replacing Mike Zopf, who retired in September after 38 years working for the county.

Cowman is currently employed by Twentymile Coal Company as an environmental specialist. His responsibilities there include environmental compliance and serving as the reclamation manager.

New public health director

The Routt County Board of Commissioners, acting in its statutory role as the board of health, met Tuesday with representatives of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to discuss an agreement that would transfer the role of county public health (PHD) director to the VNA’s Charity Neal, a registered nurse and the VNA’s current public health director.



County Manager Tom Sullivan explained that former county environmental health director Mike Zopf, who retired in September, had held the PHD role for many years. When the state legislature passed a law in 2008 requiring that the person serving in that capacity have an education background in public health, the county obtained a waiver allowing him to continue in that role. The arrangement with the VNA will bring the county within current state requirements.

The matter next goes to the VNA board for its consideration.



“Mr. Cowman has worked his entire career in positions related to the field of environmental and public health or a closely related field,” County Manager Tom Sullivan wrote in a memo to Human Resources Director Chris Hensen. “He has worked seven years as a biologist, watershed manager and common water unit leader with the U.S. Forest Service” and with an environmental consulting firm.

Cowman said Wednesday his work at Twentymile has provided the background that best applies to his new role with Routt County.

“My experience gained through working for Peabody and Twentymile is most relevant, dealing with air and water quality issues, wastewater treatment systems and drinking water systems,” Cowman said.

Cowman, who spent part of his youth in Steamboat while his parents ran property management companies, is expected to begin his new role with the county Dec. 21. He said he is aware the staff of his new department has been working without a director since Zopf’s retirement and deserves credit for holding things together.

“There has been a team of people who have been taking care of things in Mike’s absence who have been doing a very good job,” he said. “They are very capable, and we’re lucky to have them.”

The Board of County Commissioners approved Sullivan’s request Tuesday to hire Cowman at step five of the pay scale for the environmental health director at the county, given Cowman’s 19 years of work-related experience in combination with his bachelor of science degrees in natural resources management and watershed sciences from Colorado State University. Accordingly, his starting salary would be $83,075, with the potential for an increase to $85,654, if his six-month review is positive.

The responsibilities of the county’s environmental health director are many. In addition to enforcing the environmental health laws of the state of Colorado, Cowman will be expected to monitor air quality with sampling equipment on the courthouse roof and provide a consumer protection program under contract with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that includes sanitary regulation of childcare centers, retail food businesses, swimming pools and others.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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