A Pitkin County asset known for ‘telling it like it is,’ Houben will retire this summer

Pitkin County Community Development Director Cindy Houben said she will be retiring this summer after nearly 40 years with the county. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After nearly 40 years of helping shape, mentor and support unincorporated Pitkin County, longtime Community Development Director Cindy Houben announced her retirement on Wednesday.

“I’m 65!” Houben said when asked why this year would be his last with the county. “As long as I still have energy and my health, I want to go out and play a little.”

Houben’s retirement — scheduled for July 1 — marks the third time in as many months this year that a longtime Pitkin County department chief has called it a career. Registrar and Archivist Janice Vos Caudill announced her retirement effective April 1 and Director of Social Services Nan Sundeen resigned earlier this month.

Houben’s reasons – a need to enjoy and experience life around Aspen and Pitkin County while his health and quality of life remain good – also echo the reasons cited by these two other elements of work life. of Pitkin County.

“I still have a lot of energy around Pitkin County and community development, but I know to call it a day,” she said. “I think it’s just time for me to hand over the reins to someone else and hopefully there’s some new creative juices out there.”

Originally from Alabama, Houben first came to the area out of college in 1980 and worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Glenwood Springs, then Garfield County before heading to Aspen. in 1985 to work as a planner for the joint Aspen/Pitkin County. Planning Department, according to a Pitkin County news release Wednesday.

She spent 10 years as a planner before taking on the role of Community Development Director for Pitkin County in 1995, when the departments split into two separate entities.

Since then, she has taken a hands-on approach to managing growth, regulating land use and preserving the county’s hinterland – including overseeing the implementation of the District of rural and remote zoning – which will serve as its legacy, the statement said. .

Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper has known and worked with Houben for 25 years and praised his efforts over the past quarter century to protect the natural environment, work toward renewable energy opportunities and, perhaps , more importantly, “telling it as it is”.

“She never backed down from saying something to the board (of commissioners) that we didn’t want to hear,” Clapper said Wednesday. “She’s smart, she’s compassionate, and she really cares about this community as a whole. Cindy was able to do so much; it is irreplaceable.

When Houben was inducted into the American Institute of Certified Planners’ College of Scholars in 2018, Houben was the first of two Coloradans women to be inducted into the program.

“Cindy has brought her vision, leadership, Southern charm and passion to community development in Pitkin County during her distinguished career,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said in Wednesday’s statement. “(She) will be greatly missed, and I look forward to celebrating her service as she embarks on this next chapter of her life.”

After stepping down as director on July 1, Houben will remain on a part-time basis until the end of the year. But after that, it’s time to completely relax, she said.

She plans to stay in Aspen and enjoy all the things she hasn’t had enough time for as a busy department head, including summer music options, Aspen Institute duties, hiking, biking and ‘all the things I’ve only scratched the surface of over the years.

Houben also said she had a list of things to do and places she wanted to go, although she didn’t want to divulge them in the newspaper.

“I’m thrilled with (the retirement),” Houben said. “I’m glad not to be too serious about anything for a while.”

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