If Ken Davey hadn’t entered his life, Triassic Industries co-owner Scott Anderson says he would have given up on his dream of launching his business off the ground. And without David Olsen, Grand County Council vice chair Chris Baird says it’s hard to imagine what Moab’s network of parks, pathways and mountain bike trails would look like.
Both men are being remembered for their contributions to the community as civil servants and longtime residents, after the City of Moab restructured its departments last month and eliminated their positions.
“He’s the reason why we’re in the city,” Anderson said of Davey, the city’s former economic development specialist. “It’s really his encouragement and his support that has kept us located in (Moab).”
“This place has his name all over it,” Baird said of former Moab City Community Development Director Olsen. “You can hardly go anywhere and not see something associated with David.”
The dismissals came after the Moab City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 22 to ratify the city’s organizational chart, following a closed executive session to discuss the “Character, Professional Competence, or Physical or Mental Health of an Individual.”
Davey could not be reached for comment. Olsen, who served as the city’s community development director for 25 years, said he is not at liberty to discuss the situation.
A source who asked to remain anonymous told the Moab Sun News that Olsen showed up for work one day and was given one hour to clear out of his office, under the direct supervision of other city staff.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison referred all questions about the dismissals to Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson.
Baird said he was told that Davidson initiated a reorganization of the city’s departmental structure.
“The official explanation was that he wasn’t fired,” Baird said. “They just got rid of his position, along with Ken’s.”
Davidson, who was hired last spring as the new city manager, said the city’s previous organizational structure appeared to be “kind of jumbled,” pulling her in different directions.
Before the changes were implemented, Davidson said she received 11 direct reports from city department heads. But under the reorganization, seven departments will report directly to her.
In the wake of the changes, the next person who fills the city’s currently vacant recreation director position will take on more responsibilities as the parks, recreation and trails director. A new “community services director” will manage issues related to planning, affordable housing, special events, building services and film productions.
“There were a couple positions that we eliminated, but it was really a reorganization to address what we heard from the community about what they want and need,” she said.
As Davidson and the city council looked at the organization and looked into those needs, she said they determined the two positions were no longer necessary.
Davidson said the reorganization will help the city keep up with issues that city council members and others have brought to her attention, such as the growing number of special events within the city limits, and Moab’s affordable housing crisis.
“It’s important to know that we have changes going on in the community, and it’s important to stay up with those changes,” Davidson said.
Grand County Council member Mary McGann said she doesn’t know the specifics behind either man’s departure, but there’s no question about their dedication to the community, she said.
“There are behaviors that warrant abrupt dismissal, but neither of these men committed such behavior that would warrant such an abrupt action,” she said.
As a retired educator who was actively involved in the teachers association, McGann said she believes that if an organization values its longtime employees, it should reassign them to other positions.
“If somebody has shown what a hard worker they are, restructure their jobs in a way that they can be retained,” she said.
Before he joined the city in 2006, Davey served as Grand County’s economic development chief; he previously worked as a television and print journalist in Moab for many years.
McGann knew Davey in a number of those different roles, and although she disagreed with his more recent advocacy in support of a regional infrastructure coalition, she said she is impressed with his work in other areas.
During one recent legislative session, McGann joined Davey at the state capitol building in Salt Lake City and marveled as he spoke with state lawmakers on behalf of small business owners in Grand County.
“He was just constantly interfacing and networking with people,” she said.
Anderson said that Davey first approached him in 2008 with information about grant programs offered through the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development that could help him expand his business. When Anderson latched on to the idea, Davey successfully went to bat for him at the state’s economic development office, he said.
Up until then, Anderson said he was “goofing off” with a few hand tools in his backyard and selling things at the Moab Farmers Market from time to time.
“We went from a backyard to renting a shop and buying a bunch of equipment,” he said.
Today, Triassic is a three-pronged business that offers skilled manufacturing jobs in Moab, from tree-trimming services to sustainable craftsmanship on display at its art and furniture store on Main Street.
Without Davey’s help, Anderson said, he would have given up on his dream.
As for Olsen, Baird suggested that the words “I give up” might not be in the longtime city employee’s vocabulary.
“From my perspective, he’s extraordinary,” Baird said. “He’s done things that are very difficult to do.”
His accomplishments include the development of the Mill Creek Parkway, an extensive greenbelt that passes numerous properties through town.
“It runs past dozens and dozens of houses … but he figured out how to make it work,” Baird said.
Olsen was also instrumental in the formation of Grand County Trail Mix, and served as its committee’s vice chair for 15 years.
Along the way, Baird said that Olsen helped the organization build about 150 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails in the Moab area. The group’s work most recently caught the attention of national Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze, who called Trail Mix members “spectacular,” and praised them for doing a lot with a little.
“It’s a huge boon to the city’s economy in terms of revenue,” Baird said. “If we didn’t have all those trails, we wouldn’t have a mountain biking economy at all.”
According to Baird, other projects that have Olsen’s fingerprints all over them include Sun Court, Moonstone Gallery, the Moab Arts and Recreation Center and Rotary Park – including its popular Freenotes musical playground.
Former Moab Mayor Karla Hancock, who has known Olsen since she went to work for the city in 1993, called him one of the most conscientious people she’s ever met. She said she often tells people that they have Olsen to thank for his work as the city’s arborist, and as the visionary behind the Mill Creek Parkway.
“Most of Moab owes its beauty to David Olsen,” Hancock said.
McGann said that Olsen’s service is commendable on many levels, noting that he and his wife Trudy have volunteered as foster parents, and that Olsen is deeply involved in community sports and youth activities.
“It goes beyond his time as a city employee,” McGann said. “As a citizen in this community, he has been very active as a giver.”
City manager says positions of David Olsen, Ken Davey no longer necessary due to “reorganization”
There were a couple positions that we eliminated, but it was really a reorganization to address what we heard from the community about what they want and need.