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After nearly 20 years of living and working in the Denver metropolitan area, Paul Andrus and his wife Rebecca (Becky) decided they were “open to finding a new adventure.” So when a position as housing and special projects manager with the Community and Economic Development Department opened up, Andrus decided to investigate it.
“It really promised a change of scale of community. It brought us more into the real outdoors, the mountains,” Andrus said. “And through the process of researching the position, the community of itself was very intriguing to me. And as I progressed through the interview process, it became more and more evident that this really was the place that we wanted to be.
“I really enjoy the concept of living and working in a walkable community, being just minutes away from the school, able to walk to the school where my kids are going to go or riding my bike to work, perhaps.”
Andrus is originally from western New York. He earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning, with an emphasis in economic development, from the University of Colorado, Denver.
For the past six years, Andrus has served as community development planner for the City of Aurora, Colo. He began working for Aurora in 1992. He was promoted from planner to planner II, then joined the staff of Adams County, Colo., in 2003 as a program manager before returning to Aurora in 2006.
“Primarily I was working on workforce housing, homeless programming, broader community project management: projects that are associated with improving the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods,” Andrus said. “But part of my role was also to help guide the policies surrounding those types of activities within the community, determining what were the high priorities, what were the types of projects that we wanted to implement, and sort of setting those goals.”
Many of the initiatives Andrus worked with were federally funded programs for low income households. He said that one of the challenges here will be finding alternative funding sources for programs that benefit a range of household incomes, since Los Alamos does not meet the threshold for many federal programs.
“The demographics, the income level and the size of the community perhaps are different, but the dynamics of the housing market and the needs of communities are very similar in a lot of respects,” Andrus said. “The diversity of housing options within a community are important to the overall quality of life and sustainability no matter what income level or whatever the workforce or the population is comprised of.
“So we have to find and develop other means to address those needs within the community and find other funding streams, find other mechanisms to develop programming and address the issues. In some cases we will have to go out and look for bonds and look for additional partners from perhaps the state government, from the private sector, from the lending communities.
“The issues are very comparable. The approach and the methodology are going to be different.”
Although Andrus has some ideas of what programs might work, he is not jumping into anything until he is more familiar with the territory. He has spent his first month on the job familiarizing himself with the efforts that CEDD has already devoted to satisfying the county’s housing needs and meeting with community members to build relationships and learn what they feel the county’s housing priorities should be.
“I do have some ideas as to what I believe are going to be very realistic approaches, but before I get to a point where I’m really moving forward on things, I do want to get a sense as to what the consensus is in the community,” Andrus said.
Andrus said that possibilities for increasing housing options include making workforce housing an integral part of any development or redevelopment plan, developing low cost loan programs to assist first time home buyers or to help low income homeowners with maintenance issues.
“Some of these are programs that have been discussed,” Andrus said. “They haven’t necessarily been implemented, and that’s what my role will be, to take a lot of the hard work and heavy lifting that folks have done over the years, my predecessor included, and take these to the next phase of implementation, finding ways to fill in some of those gaps and move them toward implementation.”
Andrus called the CEDD structure “excellent.”
“The beauty of the departmental structure is you have logical functions and expertise under the same roof, with the understanding that they influence each other, they’re connected with each other,” Andrus said.
“So for these broader policy initiatives such as the Creative District plan or the A-19 project, that have housing and commercial and open space and a lot of other things involved, you have that expertise under one roof working as a team.”
Andrus’ own personal team — wife Becky, son Max, 12, and daughter Lucy,8 — will not arrive until after the current semester is over.
“This is a transition period in my life that I have not had since I was a bachelor in my early 20s,” Andrus said.
In the meantime, you might spot Andrus around town with his “constant companions” — the family’s three miniature schnauzers.