Montrose, CO — Known for his deep love of the Uncompahgre Valley, dry wit and humor, and extensive institutional knowledge of city history, the City of Montrose is mourning the loss of former City Manager Jim Austin who passed away February 2 at the age of 84.
Austin was city manager for nine years from 1971 to 1980. During this time Austin oversaw many transformative changes in Montrose, many with a lasting effect on the community down to this day.
“Jim was a visionary. He saw possibilities for Montrose that pushed the limits of conventional thinking. His doggedness and hard work resulted in many successful projects that have helped Montrose not only survive but thrive. His legacy will benefit our community for generations,” Montrose Mayor Barbara Bynum said.
As City Manager, Austin was integral in the city’s negotiations with the Russell Stover Candies Inc., resulting in the construction of a candy factory in Montrose in 1973 and creating thousands of jobs over the ensuing decades.
Austin’s vision in partnering with communities and organizations across the Western Slope on a number of rural initiatives, including water and infrastructure, helped transform the City of Montrose into a civic leader in Western Colorado.
Austin represented the city during negotiations of the Dallas Creek Project in 1977 to build the Ridgway Dam and Reservoir in an effort to secure water for the Uncompahgre Valley, including the City of Montrose.
Austin is remembered as a “hands-on city manager” that always made time to check in with each city department and meet with each city employee.
“Jim always wanted to help Montrose be the best it could be,” said longtime friend and former City Councilor and Mayor Judy Ann Files. “His methods were sometimes unconventional but with the best intentions. Even two months ago he was working on a plan to attract untethered workers to Montrose.”
Files said her longtime friend of five decades was a mentor and advisor who was always looking for ways to build and improve the community for all its residents.
“In the 1970s I volunteered for several Montrose projects and worked peripherally with Jim. We maintained our friendship all these years,” Files said. “He was the driving force to get me to campaign for Montrose City Council in 2011. I was elected in 2012 and he continued to be an advocate for me and the City of Montrose. I will miss him.”
Austin was a popular figure around Montrose throughout his life and a weekly attendee of The Forum where he led presentations about city history and city policies of the 1970s.
Current City Manager Bill Bell said Austin was a “pillar of the community” as someone who helped shape the growth of the city for decades.
"Jim and I had many great conversations about city management over the past nine years,” Bell said. “He told me on several occasions that it was a simpler time back then without social media, smartphones, and special interest groups. I reminded him often that he had to work much harder back then to tell the Montrose story and to make outsiders understand that Montrose is the perfect place to live, work and play ... something he was great at. There are still stories being told around the State Capitol and the Colorado Municipal League about Manager Jim Austin from Montrose. Jim's passion, enthusiasm, and unique style of leadership was recognized and appreciated by many over the years. I am glad to have known him."
To cement Austin’s legacy at the City of Montrose, the City Council will be celebrating Austin’s life with a proclamation at the Tuesday, February 16, regular City Council meeting.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Brown's Cremation & Funeral Service. According to Austin’s obituary
, there are no services planned at this time.
For other city news visit: CityofMontrose.org