5 Questions with John Cotten, Lone Tree public works director

Infrastructure chief looks back over two decades of service to city

Posted 12/4/18

John Cotten's passion is creating something from nothing. And in the past two decades, that's what Cotten has done. Cotten began as a contracted consultant for the City of Lone Tree before there was …

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5 Questions with John Cotten, Lone Tree public works director

Infrastructure chief looks back over two decades of service to city

Posted

John Cotten's passion is creating something from nothing. And in the past two decades, that's what Cotten has done.

Cotten began as a contracted consultant for the City of Lone Tree before there was a RidgeGate interchange and when much of the area was acres of open ranch land. In 1997 he began as the city's first public works director and has overseen virtually all of the city's infrastructure building to this point. His firm, originally called TST, is responsible for building out much of the new Douglas County, including the original infrastructure in the Meadows neighborhood of Castle Rock and practically all of Castle Pines'.

Cotten is soon retiring from his post as public works director for Lone Tree, the city he helped build from the ground up. He will stay on as a consultant for a few years, because, Cotten said, it makes it easier to move on from a career that has been so near to his heart.

“It's fun, because I can drive around Douglas County and there's not much I haven't touched in some way. And that's pretty rewarding,” Cotten said. “No one else will ever know that, but I don't care. That's rewarding to me.”

The Lone Tree Voice sat down with Cotten as he reflected on his career.

What has your experience been like working as public works director?

It's been great. There have been some rough roads from time to time, but overall it's been a great experience. I've really enjoyed it. I enjoy doing different things, and in this job you do different things every day.

Is there a project that sticks out in your mind as something you're really proud of?

As far as projects, probably the RidgeGate interchange. But sometimes the little projects are just as meaningful as the big ones. I did the widening of Yosemite (Street) when it was four lanes, two each direction, and we widened it to six. I think what has been the most fun has just been the people. Everything we've done with public works has been something of a joint venture. There was Lone Tree and Douglas County and Park Meadows Metro District were the funding agencies. One of the first things the city did was a study of what needed to be done to the streets, because we were already having traffic issues. Out of that came about half a dozen projects. Those were fun to see the change it makes to the city.

What were some goals the city had when it began?

Initially, the city didn't want to grow all that much. The city became incorporated because a lot of the citizens didn't like the decisions that the Douglas County commissioners made about how Lone Tree got developed. That's how incorporation came in the first place, to have local control. Then they started to recognize 'There's a lot going on around us, and if we don't in some way get involved in that, we're going to be in trouble.' They started looking and annexing different pieces of ground. We annexed Heritage Hills and the (Park Meadows) mall. It was one of those things, it was sort of like growing up. You don't really recognize you're growing up. You just do it. It's always been interesting. It's always been a challenge. The city in general has been well-managed at all levels.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the city over the years?

It's been really fun to watch it mature. When we started out, everybody kind of looked down on the city, that we were this little start-up thing and we didn't know what we were doing — and it was probably true. But as it's grown and matured, it's been really fun to watch. It's sort of like raising a kid, in some ways. Watching them grow in their stature and what they're doing. And today, Lone Tree's a pretty well-respected city in the metro area. There's been a lot more people than me involved in that. But it's been really fun to be a part of that. I've always been about seeing things grow. I've never been a person who liked to do the same thing every day. This was a job where no two days were alike.

Are you going to miss it?

It's been funny, because I've had a few months now to get used to this idea. I thought I would, a lot. But it's kind of like with your kids, you reach a point where you say 'You know, it's time for them to move on, and it's time for me to move on.' And it's kind of like that. Will I miss it? Yes, I suppose I'll miss parts of it. But the city's ready for something different, and I think that's a good thing.

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