ORAL HISTORY OF MONTROSE
IN THE 1970s
James A. (Jim) Austin
Montrose City Manager – 1971 to 1979
Based on several voice recorded interviews with Jack and Barbara
in 2018 and 2019 and numerous unrecorded discussions
during that time period.
I was hired to be Montrose City Manager in January 1971 by the City Council whose members were: Russell Alley (Mayor), Joe Stitt, Don DaLee, Del Kinkel and LaMoine Brown. An early challenge in 1972 was the negotiation to persuade the management of the Russell Stover Candy Co. to locate their new plant in Montrose.
I worked for 52 cities by the time I got here, two in Kansas and then I went to Georgia and I had 50 as a consultant. I was doing economic development work. I found two things that I always taught. One was trying to identify the citizens of each town that most closely resembles the town's mentality – it is called centrality. What is the psychological behavior of the whole bunch of them put together? Pick a person that represents or who talks and acts most like the city and then test your ideas on that one. You don’t have to run around and talk to a thousand people.
In Montrose it was Don DaLee – he was typical Montrose. I didn’t prefer him over Bob Strong or Del Kinkel or LaMoine Brown. Their contributions were as significant as his. But Don was more the typical Montrose. So if had an idea I could go by his house and get a glass of cheap wine and test the idea.
The other one was Dr. Ted Dickinson and his wife Tricia. After work I could stop at their house and get a better glass of wine and test ideas. He was focused on schools and education. Tricia was different, she talks as much as I am today, but she was and still is an important civic activist.
Ted created the Montrose Education Foundation. People we invited to come here were asked to be actively involved in city affairs. It’s a mistake we are making today when we tell more people to come town, but we ask nothing from them.
Russell Stover was a company in Kansas City, Missouri that was owned by a fellow named Louis Ward. He had decided to consider building a plant in Grand Junction, CO - don’t remember I said that. The competition was between Montrose and Grand Junction. They felt like we stole it from them.
When we started working to get the plant, the first thing I did was look at the Company Board of Directors and see who was on it (maybe I’ve got a contact some place). On the Board of Directors was a guy named Joyce Hall (Uncle Joyce) of Hallmark Greeting Cards. His nephew, Bill Dawson, was one of my best friends in college.
The Russell Stover attorney was a man from Paola, Kansas where I’d been City Manager. So I knew his family pretty well and I knew the Hall family through Dawson. A man who was the auditor for the town of Garnett, Kansas who had earlier called me and said: “I’m positive that the City Clerk was stealing money but I don't know how, I just know that I’ve done an audit and I know that money is missing so what should I do?” I said: “Blow the whistle and just go to the next council meeting and tell them that I’m sure that John is stealing money but I don’t know how, so I’m not going to eat the bullet for this one”.
Anyway, to make a long story long, the clerk then confessed to stealing money, and my stock went way up with that family. The auditor’s brother was the financial officer for Russell Stover. Much of our good fortune came from contacts made when I was Manager of the City of Paola, Kansas
So I had two “ins”, and then for some reason, I don’t have any idea why, Grand Junction decided that uranium mill tailings were very bad for the city. They started removing the mill tailings from under houses and driveways and burying them out in the desert. The press was so hot on “mill tailings” that one would have thought the whole town would glow in the dark.
Each experience with Mr. Ward was a new one. For example - Ward called one day and said: “Can you pick me up at the airport?” Now what would that mean? It would mean you can drive out and pick me up at the airport. I said sure, so I drove out to the airport, and there comes his jet. I was even cleaned up. He said: “Give me the keys to the car.” I said: “Here”. And four other people got out of the plane. So the five of them got in my car and drove off. They let me sit at the airport. The airport was a long way from town you know. So I had to walk back to town. They never thought about me. That was just a story about him - he was classic.