Government & Politics  May 17, 2022

Raymond Lee leads Greeley with a passion for helping others

GREELEY — Coming from a family of public administrators, Greeley City Manager Raymond C. Lee III considers his desire to be a public servant part of his DNA.

“At heart, I’m a servant,” said Lee of Greeley, who became the city manager in January. “I’ve always had a passion for helping people.”

After serving as Greeley’s deputy city manager for less than a year, Lee stepped into the management role, bringing with him more than 14 years of managerial experience.  

Longtime city manager Roy Otto had just resigned in August 2021 after working in the same position since 2005 and providing 22 years of service to the city. He took a few months off, then became director of development for the NCMC Foundation/The WeldTrust in October 2021. 

“I think Roy laid a good foundation for this organization,” Lee said. “I’ll be building onto that foundation to get us to where we need to go on to the next level.”

After Otto left, Lee served as interim city manager, then was named city manager.

“(Raymond) really proved his worth through his enthusiasm. He schooled up quickly on our community,” said Greeley Mayor John Gates. “He’s really hit the ground running (with) the knowledge he has of all our departments, the knowledge he has grasped really quickly of what our community stands for.” 

Lee joined the city staff as the deputy city manager when he moved to Greeley in January 2021 from Texas. Originally from Dallas, Lee liked where the city of Greeley was heading, evidenced by the amount of undeveloped land it owns and its projections for growth.

“I’m a builder and this community and organization is in a building phase,” Lee said. 

Greeley is a mid-sized, fast-growing city with a population of 111,000 residents projected to grow to 135,000 within the next 10 years and 265,000 in the next 40 years with full buildout estimated at 400,000. 

“We know there is going to be a tremendous amount of growth that will happen within the city of Greeley, really strategically planned out growth that will meet the needs of the current citizens and those potentially moving to Greeley,” Lee said.

Otto brought Lee to the organization as the city’s deputy manager to provide leadership and strategic direction for its community-building portfolio in several departments, including community development, economic health and housing, public works, water and sewer, and culture, parks and recreation. Lee leveraged his influence to focus on how to build a better community with the aim to improve resources for its residents and enhance the quality of services the city provides. 

The deputy position gave Lee a view of where the city is at, particularly its strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats, he said. This cut down on his learning curve for the city manager position, since he had the opportunity to connect with businesses, residents and the city council, while also gaining an understanding of their needs and expectations of city government. 

“I commend (Roy) for his dedication and his work,” Lee said. “When I think of Roy, I think of somebody who leads with his heart. He generally cares about his community and still cares about it to this day.”

Like Otto, Lee follows the city council’s direction in its key focus areas, ensuring that its visions for the city are turned into reality and projects are outlined with performance data in place for review, he said. Those focus areas revolve around business growth, community vitality, economic development to attract and retain businesses, housing for all from affordable to executive, a sustainable infrastructure and mobility, and a safe and secure community. 

“What is our brand of our city? What do we truly want to focus on? How will we sell the community to those who want to move to Colorado?” Lee said.

Lee wants to be sure that Greeley’s growth is smart so that it doesn’t outpace the city’s ability to provide quality services to its citizens. The city needs to have plans and resources in place to address growth, including increasing the housing stock and the quality-of-life amenities that include restaurants, shops and entertainment, he said.

“The things that stand out about him are his ability to create clarity around a vision … identifying areas operationally where the city needs to grow in relation to intentional design, planning, service and infrastructure,” said Kelli Johnson, chief of staff and interim communications and engagement director for the city of Greeley. “Part of his vision is focused on how to make the community the best community it can be.”

Lee puts plans in place to proactively support Greeley’s growth instead of being reactive, Johnson said. He is business savvy, setting up the city for success and elevating the health of the organization, she said. 

“He’s not only trying to be responsive to the needs of the community and organization, he is designing systems and structures and processes and a culture that really establishes a healthy organization,” Johnson said. “He’s a collaborative leader. He listens first to understand, then talks about strategy and execution to talk about community needs.”

That’s because Lee wants to ensure the city of Greeley is inclusive by seeking input from not just the city council but the residents of Greeley and the stakeholders there and in the region. 

“It’s a position where you’re truly helping people and working with people to resolve issues,” Lee said.

Paul Trombino III, public works director for the city of Greeley, likes that Lee is an engaging and effective communicator.

“He’s done a lot of outreach with staff across the city having departmental meetings. That’s good leadership,” Trombino said. “Raymond really seeks out our voices, trying to understand the work and how we’re doing it and how we can make it better.”

Lee also is risk advantageous, not adverse, Trombino said.

“As a city that’s growing, a city that’s changing, people expect progress and betterment. That means you have to take risks and explain and communicate what those are,” Trombino said. “Those are two things that Raymond really embodies as a whole and as a leader and a lifelong active learner.”

Before coming to Greeley, Lee held several management positions and helped municipal governments develop their growth plans. Among his various positions, he served as director of public works for the city of Amarillo from 2017 to 2021, assistant director of the city of Dallas from 2015 to 2017 and manager of street services for Dallas from 2012 to 2015. 

Lee holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. He likes spending time with his wife, Star, and their three children, as well traveling, sightseeing and being a “big sports advocate,” he said.

“No matter where I’ve been, even at a young age, I like to see people thrive and afforded opportunities,” Lee said.

GREELEY — Coming from a family of public administrators, Greeley City Manager Raymond C. Lee III considers his desire to be a public servant part of his DNA.

“At heart, I’m a servant,” said Lee of Greeley, who became the city manager in January. “I’ve always had a passion for helping people.”

After serving as Greeley’s deputy city manager for less than a year, Lee stepped into the management role, bringing with him more than 14 years of managerial experience.  

Longtime city manager Roy Otto had just resigned in August 2021 after working in the same position since 2005 and providing 22…

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