For Seth Furtney, a candidate for Durango City Council, his commitment to public service goes back to his roots.
His father died when he was 9, and his mother allowed her three sons to roam free in Boulder – as long as they didn’t get hurt. That freedom allowed him to explore and develop his own interests. He followed those interests to a 20-year career as an engineering contracts manager in which he focused on negotiating agreements that “left everyone smiling.”
“My natural curiosity and interest in being involved in solutions has me called to public service,” Furtney said.
Furtney, 55, is one of seven candidates running for three open seats on City Council in the April 6 elections. The candidates will replace Mayor Dean Brookie, who is term-limited; Chris Bettin, who declined to run for re-election; and Melissa Youssef, who is running as an incumbent candidate.
Furtney earned a degree in international affairs from the University of Colorado Boulder and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. He worked as a contracting officer for the U.S. Air Force and a contract manager for an engineering company selling services primarily to the U.S. government.
He also owns and manages commercial properties for Snowy River Investments LLC.
An outdoors enthusiast, Furtney was drawn to Durango for its natural environment. He first dove into city government as a member of the Durango Parks and Recreation Advisory Board five years ago.
“The attractive nature of the community is where we sing – where we have our greatest attraction,” Furtney said.
Through the board, he became familiar with the city’s inner workings, assessing the recreation department’s priorities and projects and making recommendations for funding to City Council.
“I saw what I felt was a lack of attention to opportunity costs,” Furtney said. “This town has a lot of challenges – from stormwater systems to wildfire mitigation – what we were focusing our attention on might be too myopic. I liked the idea of telescoping out.”
Through City Council, he could be involved with more of the city’s operations and draw from his skill sets as an engineering contract manager and commercial property owner, he said.
Furtney characterizes himself as someone who likes to do research, get involved and understand the background of issues. If elected, he would be able to offer a background in finding best-value solutions and balancing differing priorities while establishing agreements and partnerships, he said.
City councilors set budget goals and determine which projects get financial resources. Furtney was undaunted by taking on a leadership role with the city’s $102.7 million budget – he’s handled multimillion dollar budgets before, he said.
In fact, he said he was “obsessed” with understanding the budget and how it reflects, or doesn’t, the sensible, long-term, sustainable values of the community.
“I’m actually pretty intimate with the city budget, because I read it. ... I know where they allocate their money, the goals they establish,” Furtney said. “We can talk all we want to about our values, goals and desires. But if I don’t resource it, I won’t achieve it. That ultimately is where you demonstrate your values and goals.”
The candidates, if elected, will hold a four-year term on the council. In that time, Furtney said his top priority is fire mitigation.
“There’s a lot of priorities. If there was one thing I had to focus on, it would probably be the wildfire risk to the city and the city’s water supply,” Furtney said. “I just cannot allow for the fact that Durango may be the next Paradise, California. I think it’s avoidable with some affordable investments.”
He wants to funnel resources into efforts like Wildfire Adaptive Partnership, the fire protection district, the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative and the Southwest Wildfire Impact Fund.
“I want to make sure we encourage, if not demand, that the watershed be one of the higher priority areas for mitigation,” Furtney said. “If that water supply were to become fouled, we could disappear.”
Furtney moved to Durango in 2003. In addition to being an avid bikepacker, pack rafter and former kayaker, he has also been involved in trail work with Trails 2000 (now called Durango Trails). He also actively blogs about his outdoor adventures.
He describes his approach to City Council based on opportunity costs, resources and investments.
“What am I going to not be able to afford because I’m making that investment?” Furtney said. “What do we want to achieve?”
Durango has “about a billion dollars” of plans on its shelves right now, he said. Based on some simple math given the budget, that equals about 50 years of work.
For him, accomplishing those goals comes down to prioritizing, and providing resources, for options that provide the greatest value to the community – “I’ve got that kind of mind,” he said.
“If we want to achieve these things in your lifetime, in my lifetime, we’ve got to prioritize and pick the ones we want to favor. Because 50 years is not a reasonable answer,” Furtney said.