Matt Sturgeon was not looking for a new job: He liked being city manager of Rifle, a town of roughly 9,500 west of Glenwood Springs.
But the ad for the Centennial city manager position piqued his interest. And June 19, after beating out two other finalists, Sturgeon, 46, will take over the helm of the city of 110,000 people. Sourrounded by Littleton, Greenwood Village, Parker and Lone Tree, among other communities, Centennial spreads across 30 square miles and is defined by its thriving business community and family-oriented atmosphere.
The contract between Sturgeon and the city is currently being negotiated.
Sturgeon succeeds John Danielson, who resigned in October. Elisha Thomas,Centennial’s deputy city manager, stepped into the job in the interim.
Sturgeon’s contract was approved by a 9-0 vote of city council on May 15 and signed by Sturgeon the next day. He will be paid a base annual salary of $200,000.
Sturgeon started in Rifle in 2002 as planning director. He later became assistant city manager and, in 2013, city manager. Before Rifle, he was the senior planner in Pueblo County.
He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California Irvine in 1992 and a master’s degree in urban and regional Planning from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis in 1995.
“The council is excited to be entering the next stage of success for our city,” Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon said May 5 when announcing the choice of Sturgeon. “We are confident we have the right person at the helm for our continuing success.”
Sturgeon spoke on the phone from Rifle with Colorado Community Media reporter Stephanie Mason to answer a few questions.
Why did you decide to apply for the city manager position?
This had been a high-performing city since it was created. I was drawn to the high-functioning city council, the incredible staff and the great community. It is a challenge that I have been waiting to discover.
The commitment of efficiency and finding the best way to tackle a problem is what drew me in general. For a long time, (Centennial) has been doing a great job advancing their public works department and their police services. Centennial’s approach to governance is different to what other communities do and it works very well.
Rifle has a really great city council and a great staff. I’ve really appreciated my 15 years here. I was not looking for a different job, but I ran into the Centennial job advertisement several times. I decided to look more into the city… and discovered that it was something that would, in fact, be a good opportunity for me.
With Rifle’s population of nearly 10,000 and Centennial’s population of 110,000, how will you manage a city 11 times the size of the city your currently manage?
I think it is just more dollars, more lanes and miles of roadway, more snowplowing miles, a larger police protection presence — but everything is scalable.
I love cities and I am not concerned about being able to adapt. Local governments all have to follow the same format. It is different in scope, but I am not really concerned.
What projects in Centennial do you most look forward to managing?
The project with FiberWorks is a huge project I am excited about. I am excited to work with the innovation team and their Bloomberg grant. There are lots of growth projects that are planned. I am excited for all the projects — there is just so much going on in all levels.
I have been doing local government for 22 years at the county and city level. I have a county perspective that will help with the relationship at Arapahoe County. I have 15 years municipal experience, doing a lot of projects with state agencies and special district projects, economic development, and my background is in planning. My breadth of background will go well with Centennial.
I think my job is to come in and see how the organization functions and adapt my skills to that. I think one of my greatest strengths is being able to adapt to conditions. I want to come in and evaluate what different organizations are doing and see which of my skill sets can help to make it better. I think Centennial has been doing a great job, and it is my place to use what I have to improve what they are already doing.
Tell us about your family.
I have a wife of 23 years, Kelly. I have a son, Carter, who is a going to be a junior. He is a basketball player, so we spend a lot of time following his basketball events. My daughter, McKenna, is going to her first year at University of Colorado-Boulder next year. She likes to travel.
My wife and I like to get out and hike, take in scenery and travel.
We are right now searching for a Centennial high school for Carter and a house for us to move into. We are all excited to make the move to Centennial.