'Fritz' Sprague takes post as city manager in Lafayette
Fritz Sprague will depart from Castle Rock after nearly 20 years on staff. The Deputy Town Manager accepted the city manager position with Lafayette and begins on Feb. 1.
Posted Monday, January 21, 2019 12:53 pm
When Terry “Fritz” Sprague started his tenure with the Town of Castle Rock in 1999, its population was fewer than 20,000. The Miller Activity Complex didn't exist. The area that's now Festival Park was filled with dirt and weeds. Construction on the current town hall building (pre-addition) barreled toward completion.
He's since worked with nearly every town department, weathered an economic recession that tested municipal governments and watched Castle Rock grow rapidly. Today the community is approaching 70,000 people.
It's time, he decided, to move on in his career.
As the New Year loomed so did news that Sprague, Castle Rock's deputy town manager, was named the new city administrator for the Boulder County city of Lafayette. His first day in the community of about 28,000 will be Feb. 1.
Sprague replaces a 20-year veteran of the Lafayette post, Gary Klaphake, who's leaving for retirement. Sprague was selected from among 60 applicants and was one of two finalists.
“I'm sad to see him leave and excited for his next step in the municipal government profession,” said Castle Rock Town Manager David Corliss. “He's been involved in virtually all aspects of the community.”
On Jan. 15, Sprague sat next to packing boxes in his office, each waiting to be filled with memories from the past. A white hard hat from the town hall's construction. A framed proclamation from the Castle Rock Town Council, commemorating his service.
Much had changed since 1999, for the town, certainly, but for Sprague's career as well. He would depart as the No. 2 person on staff, second-in-command only to Corliss.
One of Sprague's first tasks in Castle Rock was resurrecting a stalled-out widening project of Front Street. When they finished, he said, “it was so wide I thought you could land an airplane on this thing.”
Then came plans to revamp the downtown area.
“Downtown was kind of a destination, but it didn't have the focus and import that it does now,” he said, naming as examples the Riverwalk and the Festival Park overhaul.
More than 10 years ago, before those projects came to life, a town committee was studying how to invest in the downtown. The committee recommended forming a Downtown Development Authority. They didn't know the Great Recession would soon ravage the nation's economy. How Castle Rock managed itself through the recession is one of the things Sprague is most proud of.
“We watch our sales tax receipts very closely and we saw a decline coming before the recession hit. We knew that something was coming. We just didn't know how big it was going to be,” he said.
The town pulled back on expenditures. When employees left, the town didn't fill the positions. Six people were laid off, but in an organization of 400, Sprague said it could have been worse. By becoming a leaner operation, the town somehow managed to grow its fund balance during the recession.
A town ballot measure in 2008 passed, creating the Downtown Development Authority and making way for the downtown that Castle Rock residents see today.
“The recession was a huge challenge. It was hands down one of the hardest things I've experienced in local government,” Sprague said, “Not only because of the financial difficulty but the impact it had on people.”
Corliss said Sprague's contribution to Castle Rock spans beyond that. He was instrumental in overseeing a years-long effort to raise salaries for the town's police and fire personnel, Corliss said, in order to match market rate. Overall, Corliss said, Sprague created a positive and highly professional culture for employees.
Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg said Sprague's climb in Castle Rock government and his history of helping manage a rapidly growing community helped him secure the new job.
“We found that he had the sort of leadership style and skill set that we felt was a good match for our city. We are very excited about his experience in Castle Rock,” Berg said.
Lafayette has a “lofty goal” to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, will be working on a comprehensive plan in the near future and recently purchased 23 acres of land where they hope to build affordable housing. Sprague will help oversee all those projects for Lafayette.
As of Jan. 14, Corliss was still determining how to replace Sprague.
“We're right now looking at the responsibilities for the position and the responsibilities within the town manager's office,” he said. “We'll likely be starting recruitment for another position in February.”
Their focus for the time being will be ”wishing Fritz the best as he leaves,” Corliss said.
“It's been an amazing tour of duty,” Sprague said. “Castle Rock have been very good to me. It's an amazing community and I've made some lifelong friendships