Gillette’s new city administrator has had a passion for local government since he was a teenager.
Hyun Kim said it started when he got a job at the parks and recreation department in a Nevada city, and it hasn’t waned since.
He admits that he gets excited about things that most people would find boring, like snowplows and municipal bonds.
“I’m passionate about potholes,” he said. “I’m also passionate about infrastructure, and I’m also passionate about prudent governance. It doesn’t always have to be so exciting.”
Kim has been the city administrator for Gillette for about a month now. He and his family moved to Campbell County in August. They came from Fife, Washington, a suburb of Tacoma with a population of 11,000.
He previously was the finance director and chief real estate officer for Boulder City, Nevada, and before that, he was the Afton town administrator.
Kim’s been married for 14 years, and he has four children. Three of them are in elementary school, and the oldest is in junior high.
Kim has spent most of his first month within the walls of City Hall, working with the council members and city staff on internal matters, but he plans to soon get out and talk to residents and businesses to see what they’re looking for from city government.
Kim has been meeting weekly with City Council members one on one. It’s something he’s done in other cities he’s worked at, where it has helped clean up communications and get everyone on the same page.
But it also helps Kim get up to speed as quickly as possible.
“He’s been real active, brings good ideas, but also, he wants to hear what we want,” said City Councilman Billy Montgomery.
Kim said the city staff and City Council have done a great job in the past several years working on its infrastructure. From treating sewage water to developing a fiber network throughout the city to give people better connectivity to burying the city’s power lines underground, these projects are investments that will pay off for the city’s residents.
“That’s the kind of stuff that excites me,” he said.
Kim’s first job was working at the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Henderson, Nevada. At the time, it was the fastest growing city in the country. While there, he got to see firsthand how the local government could help the community.
“I got to see government in action, how it can support the community through efforts that encourage more jobs, encourage opportunities for even playing fields, for people to have an opportunity to enjoy where they live,” he said. “There’s value in that.”
While he was at college, he wanted to work for the federal government, but he realized that the best way to make a positive change in the community is at the local level, “so I’m passionate about what we do,” he said.
While he was in Washington, Kim wasn’t actively looking for a new job, but the chance to move back to Wyoming and take on the challenges facing Gillette was intriguing.
When he and his family moved out of Wyoming, they were “really saddened,” but at the time, he was looking for “bigger opportunities to grow my career.”
“I’m done with that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to staying somewhere longer than four years.”
He believes Gillette can be that long-term home.
“The biggest thing on a personal level for me is the ability to potentially put down roots and call some place home for my kids,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to here in Campbell County.”
Montgomery said he wanted a city administrator that could “easily talk to people and make them feel at home, and communicate with them, and I saw that in him when we did the interviews.”
He said Kim has taken a more personal approach to the position of city administrator.
“He’s a real personable guy, he’ll take the time to listen to what you say,” Montgomery said. “He just has that air about him that you feel like you’ve known him forever.”
Gillette has some challenges ahead of it, including addressing a labor shortage and revitalizing the economy as fossil fuels continue to decline, but Kim said he’s looking forward to tackling them.
“The challenge of coming to a community that’s trying to answer the question of what’s next for our kids and the next generation, as well as the young people ... that was super appealing to me,” he said.
In the coming months, the city will be releasing information on jobs initiatives to employ more residents, and Kim is excited for where those ideas go.
“Without picking winners and losers, how can we support the existing businesses here in Campbell County?” he asked.
Kim said that when he lived in Afton, he didn’t know that much about Gillette and Campbell County. He also spent a year in Rock Springs, where he’d heard about the similarities between that city and Gillette.
But since he’s moved here, he’s been “pleasantly surprised by how much more the community has to offer and what’s going on here,” from the unique small businesses to great restaurants to the amenities that are around town, especially for children.
He wants to talk to residents about not just what brought them to Gillette, but what made them choose to stay here. And beyond that, he wants to figure out how the city can get the next generation to return to Campbell County.
“How do we get them to come back? That’s a question I’d love to answer in the coming years,” he said.
Kim encouraged people to get involved, starting with the city’s many volunteer boards and commissions, and providing public comment. For example, the city is currently doing a rewrite of its zoning and development code regulations, and it will be accepting feedback from residents. The rules and regulations will shape how the city grows and develops.
Not all government work is going to be “earth shattering,” but that’s OK with Kim.
“It’s sometimes mundane, but it’s important too, and that’s why we’re here.”
The city of Gillette is preparing a new master plan for the future of its pathways projects, which encompasses walking paths, bike lanes, sidewalks and other trails that connect the community. But before the plan is finalized, the city wants you to weigh in.
Thursday night at 6 p.m. in the second floor City Hall community room, the city’s pathways project consultant team will present its recommend changes to the city’s pathways. Those suggestions will include new routes and improvements to existing paths.
The public will have the chance to chime in with what they like, don’t like and think could be better.
The new master plan is expected to stand for the next five to 10 years.
“One of the big goals is to connect everyone within our neighborhoods in the city to this system so they can get anywhere in town in a safe manner as part of their transportation,” said Josh Richardson, city project manager.
At the meeting, the city will reveal a live rendering of the proposed pathways map. The public can access that map and make suggestions during the meeting and online afterward. Those comments, concerns and suggestions will be taken into consideration as the team goes to work on a revised and final draft that is expected to go before the City Council and city employees later this year.
Beyond suggesting pathway ideas, the public also can recommend which pathway projects it would like prioritized, Richardson said.
Some of the noteworthy recommendations mapped out are a neighborhood bike path that runs throughout downtown and the surrounding neighborhood and an off-road pathway that runs east from Echeta Road and Foothills Boulevard to and through Bicentennial, McManamen and Northwest parks.
“One of the problems has been we’ve never had a real good connection between all those (parks),” Richardson said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with that pathway.”
The “off road” designation marks trails that are not tied to or alongside a roadway. Sidewalks are paths that sit flush against the street and side paths are trails that run along roads but have a buffer of land in between.
The network of various paths would connect from as far east as Cam-plex Park and Fox Park to as far west as a potential interstate underpass north of Bell Nob Golf Course.
The connecting system of paths is largely contained between Northern and Southern Drive, other than a network of side paths and sidewalk that extends south to Antelope Valley and merges with existing side path that leads east to Sleepy Hollow.
A proposed off-road pathway connects Energy Capital Sports Complex to Dalbey Memorial Park to the west and includes a pathway that crosses Boxelder Road to its north. The plan calls for putting a side path in along Boxelder Road between Butler-Spaeth and Garner Lake roads.
Frankly, there are too many connecting paths to list. The totality of the proposed plan is a vast addition to the current city pathways. The city’s current pathways stretch and weave through the city for about 80 miles.
The proposed plan is not a final decision by any stretch, but rather is the consulting company’s draft of recommendations based on the existing infrastructure and its condition as well as prior public input, hence the call for more public comment.
“That’s what it’s for. It’s actually for the public to guide us,” Richardson said. “A master plan is there to provide for the future of our town. It’s the citizens that we’re trying to serve. We have to listen to what they have to say.”
Planning a plan
The city announced its plans to revise its pathways master plan last summer and has been gauging public input along the way.
Earlier this year, a website sporting an interactive pathways map launched and provided a platform for the public to view existing pathways and make suggestions on locations to add to. Although the public comment period for that website has ended, the user-suggested comments can still be read on its interactive map.
That website and pathways materials can be viewed at https://gillettepathways.com.
In August 2020, the City Council gave the go-ahead on the $161,268 to fund the new plan. Of that, $129,014 would be covered by the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Programs, or TAP, grants, with the other $32,254 coming as a 20% city match.
Through that grant, the federal government contributes 80%, which gets distributed through the state to Gillette. The city then picks up the remaining 20% from its Optional 1% Sales Tax Fund.
Richardson estimated that those same TAP grants have paid for roughly $5 million of pathways construction since the last master plan was put in place. Although the cost for future pathway projects is unclear now, he said the plan is to continue to fund those with TAP grants. Other grants could be sought to fund the new pathway projects as well.
“That goes a long ways to stretching our capital dollars out,” Richardson said. “The more citizen contact we have, the more ability people feel safe in providing grants to us.”
Thursday’s meeting will not be the last chance for public input on the future of the pathway projects, but Richardson said it may be the best chance. Even over the decade or so that the plan will cover, changes and shifting priorities will arise as other city needs and budgetary circumstances dictate.
“This is a time when a citizen could make the most of what their comments are,” Richardson said. “It goes farther now than, a lot of times, later. The program recommendations that come out of this is going to be something the council looks at and competes with lots of other projects.”