The Alliance Board consists of nine representatives. Five representatives are from the private sector and are elected for three-year terms by Alliance members. The four public sector representatives are appointed by their respective jurisdictions. One public sector representative serves from each of our three communities (Durango, Bayfield, and Ignacio) as well as La Plata County to ensure that the Alliance represents all of La Plata County.

Our staff and board are vital to accomplishing the Alliance’s mission and vision.

Steve Alias board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Dr. Steven Elias

Chair

Fort Lewis: Katz School of Business

Dr. Steven Elias is the Dean of the Business School at Fort Lewis College and the founder and Director of the Fort Lewis Center for Innovation. Steven holds a doctorate in applied social psychology from Colorado State University, along with a master’s degree in applied psychology from Auburn University Montgomery and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Florida. Previously, he was the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Professor in the College of Business at New Mexico State University, where he was also a 2010 Bill Daniels Fellow in Ethics. While at NMSU, he held several administrative positions, including NMSU Director of the Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership program, Interim Associate Dean for Research, Head of the Management Department, and PhD Program Director.

Steven is very active in both the local business community and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Although Steven is interested in several areas of organizational behavior, his primary interests revolve around leadership, managerial influence, social power, self-efficacy, job attitudes, and deviant workplace behavior.

Mitch Dye board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Mitch Dye

Vice-Chair & Secretary

ImageNet Consulting

Mitch grew up in the Four Corners and is the President of the Rocky Mountain Region for ImageNet Consulting, a total office technologies company with operations in 7 states. Launching this division of ImageNet in 2012, his team has grown from 6 to 49 employees while experiencing revenue growth of 400% through supporting nearly 2200 clients along the Western Slope of Colorado and Northern NM. Prior to his role at ImageNet, Mitch served 11 years as Vice President and Director of Procurement and Technical Provisioning for BOK Financial, a 34 billion dollar financial services company based in Tulsa, OK.

Mitch celebrated his 27th wedding anniversary this year with his wife, Christal. They have one son, Triston, who lives in Atlanta, GA working in the TV and Film Industry. Mitch enjoys volunteering in the community and proudly served on the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance board for 5 years, holding the Chairman role for 18 months of that term. In addition, he served as past President of the Durango Diplomats, past President of the Durango Wine Experience, is a 2017 graduate of Leadership La Plata and currently sits on the Fort Lewis College Foundation Board of which he has been a member of since 2018. In addition to being an active contributor in the community, he loves spending time in the outdoors hiking, biking, fishing and is always up for kicking off karaoke night.

Jason Portz board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Jason Portz

Treasurer

Bank of Colorado

Jason Portz joined Bank of Colorado in 2003 and is currently the Market President in Durango. He is a Business Management graduate from St. John’s University and graduated from Pacific Coast Graduate School of Banking at the University of Washington in September 2012.

Jason grew up in a small farm community in NW Iowa. After graduating from St. John’s, he moved to Durango to pursue a banking career working with a wide variety of businesses and industries in the Durango community. He is committed to the La Plata County community and has served on boards for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Durango Daybreak Rotary. He currently serves on boards for the Durango Education Foundation, Fort Lewis College Foundation, Durango Industrial Development Foundation (DIDF) and was appointed by Governor Polis to the state board of Colorado Health Facilities Authority (COHFA). He is also a graduate of the 2010 Leadership La Plata program.

Matt Salka board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Matt Salka

Public Sector Board Member

La Plata County, CO

Matt Salka was born in Portsmouth, VA. A son of a military family, he moved to La Plata County in 2000. His grandfather served in the Navy during WWII, and his father served in the Navy for 25 years. Matt attended Fort Lewis College for his Information Systems degree; he started a small IT business and a second business in Pest Control.

As County Commissioner, Matt will serve as the Board Liaison for the Sherriff’s Office, Coroner’s Office and District Attorney’s Office, as well as the County representative on the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, Housing Solutions for the Southwest and the Durango-La Plata County Airport Commission.

Jessica Buell board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Jessika Buell

Public Sector Board Member

Durango City Council

Jessika Buell is an entrepreneur, coach, trainer, Mayor Pro-Tem, and, most importantly, a mom. She moved to Durango in 2001 to attend Fort Lewis College, where she obtained degrees in English Literature and English Education with endorsements in Spanish and Math. Jessika is a dedicated mother raising her two boys in Durango. Her interests include working out, supporting and cheering on her boys in their various sports activities, coaching their hockey teams, reading, spending time with friends, and engaging in business-related endeavors.

With over 22 years of experience living and working in Durango, Jessika started her professional career as an English and Math teacher in the Durango Schools. She later transitioned into marketing, business development, and project executive roles for one of the largest construction firms in the country. In 2016, Jessika established her first business in Durango, Lucky Services, which has grown to employ over 50 individuals and operates in multiple locations across different states. Lucky Services provides services that are utilized by both locals and visitors in the community. Recognizing the need for digital marketing services for small businesses, Jessika founded Marketing Concepts Squared (MC2) in 2018. Through MC2, she collaborates with and supports numerous exceptional businesses in the region by managing their social media presence. In 2019, Jessika had the opportunity to become a co-owner of The Vault, a gym she has cherished for years. As a co-owner, she not only participates in training and working out but also finds inspiration from the remarkable individuals within the community.

Kent Curtis board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Kent Curtis

Private Sector Board Member

First Southwest Bank

Kent Curtis is President and CEO of First Southwest Bank, a $500 million certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). He is also President of First Southwest Community Fund, a 501c3, and he is Co-founder of HelloBello.biz. In a unique way, these three entities fulfill the bank’s mission in serving the underserved and unbanked.

Kent began his banking career upon graduation from Fort Lewis College in 1982 and he has spent his entire banking career, spanning over 35 years, as a community banker on the Western Slope, including the last twelve years in Durango. He is a former board member of the Durango Chamber of Commerce and FastTrack Communications, and currently sits on several local boards and committees, including the Homes Fund loan committee. Kent met his wife April while they were both working at the Durango Herald during his college years and they have one son (Ben) that is also a Durango area resident.

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Clark Craig

Public Sector Board Member

Town of Ignacio

Clark Craig was elected Mayor of the Town of Ignacio in 2022. Before this, he served as chair of the Town of Ignacio Planning Commission. He is the Vice Chair of the La Plata County Planning Commission, President of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Ignacio Community Library.

Clark graduated from Durango High School and completed his BS in Mathematics from Northeastern State University—Tahlequah, OK. He held various leadership positions in Oil and gas Information Technology and Production Automation for nearly 25 years. These roles took him, his wife, and three children to several states, including NM, TX, and OK, and a short five-year assignment in Alberta, Canada.

Clark and Sharon returned to SW Colorado in 2016 and are co-owners of Meadow Brook Mobile Home Park in Ignacio, CO.

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Elizabeth Howe

Private Sector Board Member

La Plata Electric Association

Elizabeth Howe serves as the Vice President of Business Services at La Plata Electric Association, overseeing operations, safety, compliance, people and culture, member services, and facilities. Elizabeth joined the LPEA leadership team in 2022 after a 30-year career in ski area operations, where she most recently served as the Chief Operations Officer for Mountain Capital Partners, based in Durango. Elizabeth has extensive experience in purpose-driven leadership, organizational efficiency, project management, and customer service, which she honed through leadership positions at Vail Resorts and Telluride Ski & Golf Resort. Elizabeth is currently an MBA candidate at the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business. She serves on the Boys & Girls Club of La Plata County board of directors and is a member of the Business Advisory Council for the Fort Lewis College Katz School of Business. Elizabeth enjoys all that southwest Colorado has to offer, and you can find her on the slopes or high up on a peak if she isn’t cheering her son on in a hockey rink or at another of his many activities.

Meet The Staff

Working as a Team is critical to the success of La Plata County. If you would like to know more or meet us, please stop by our office at 2301 Main Avenue, Durango Colorado, or call us at 970-259-1700.

Micheal French Executive Directory La Plata Economic Alliance

Mike French

Executive Director

Michael French started his own IT Infrastructure Service company at the age of 28 and grew it until it was sold to a public entity 8 years later in 2005.

He stayed with that same organization in executive roles through various mergers and acquisitions for the next 11 years, eventually retiring as the Chief Marketing Officer of a $3B company.

He went on to run a leadership development consulting firm as vice president of operations for a couple of former Blue Angel pilots and a Navy Admiral.

Has been heavily involved in local and regional, not-for-profit organizations, including Mountain Studies Institute, and is current President of the Southwest Colorado Community Foundation Board of Directors.

He has been a small business owner, advisor, and investor.

Has been a Durango resident for 12 years with his wife Celestia and his two children Bodhi and Aila.

Please feel free to contact Michael if you have any questions or if your business needs assistance.

Sarah Tober Deputy Director at La Plata Economic Alliance

Sarah Tober

Deputy Director

Sarah Tober has built a career in entrepreneurship, communications, and advocacy in a wide array of industries including small business, sustainable building, community development, and environmental stewardship. Achieving an MBA at the University of Texas accelerated Tober’s growth as a leader and solidified her prowess to make systemic changes in equity, equality, and resource access.

Tober’s work has centered around building community resilience, and she is currently addressing the housing crisis in La Plata County and SW Colorado. Additionally, Tober is helping the Durango Dark Sky effort as a mentor through International DarkSky Association (IDA) Colorado and Colorado Tourism Office, working with Visit Durango and the City of Durango to achieve IDA certification.

In her previous role as president of a 40 year-old-statewide nonprofit, Tober focused on educating the public, strengthening partnerships, and city, county, and statewide advocacy. By passing two bills in the 87th Regular Legislative Session, Tober helped establish the State Scenic Byways Program through Senate Bill 941 and further protecting the Dark Skies with Senate Bill 1090. She recruited 14 board members, fundraised more than $500,000, and created the 1 Million Trees Across Texas initiative.

Always community-minded she has served on various boards and commissions and currently serves on the Durango Creative Economy Commission.

Coming from a long line of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners accounts for her passion in horticulture and led her to become a Master Gardener. Living life outdoors has created a deep appreciation for adventuring and whenever Tober has a free weekend she can be found mountain biking, hiking, skiing, sailing, camping, or homesteading on nearly four acres near the Florida River.

She resides in Durango with husband Bobby, son Wyland, pug Fiona Apple, cat Calisto, and their micro farm of chickens, ducks, and a rabbit.

JJ Derosiers Program Manager at La Plata Economic Alliance

J.J. Desrosiers

Program Manager

J.J. Desrosiers is a passionate advocate for the intersection of economics and people, currently serving as the Program Manager for the La Plata Economic Development Alliance. In addition to this role, he is an active Board Member of Durango Community Dance and recently completed a term on the Board of First Southwest Community Fund.

Education has been a cornerstone of J.J.’s journey. He graduated with honors from Fort Lewis College, where dual majors in Economics and Business Analytics in 2023.

While J.J. is just starting in the professional realm, his achievements are varied. He is an Eagle Scout and has been recognized numerous times for his exceptional work in youth development, positively impacting the next generation’s lives. He has spoken extensively about strategies to achieve a debt-free college experience and has published an environmental impact study on creative parking solutions in an academic journal.

J.J. possesses a diverse skill set, including expertise in data analysis, economic theory, business optimization, and operations, all of which promise to be invaluable assets in his future endeavors. Outside of his professional pursuits, J.J. finds joy in dance, catching major boofs as an avid raft guide, and navigating the thrilling currents of life. A lesser-known passion is his interest in vexillology, exploring the world of flags and their symbolism.

In summary, J.J. Desrosiers brings a wealth of potential and passion to the field of Economics and beyond. With a commitment to personal growth and a desire to make a positive impact, he is poised to achieve remarkable milestones on his professional journey.

A headshot of Sarah Schwartz

Sarah Schwartz

Housing Strategy Manager

Sarah Schwartz is a creative and passionate Colorado native who believes developing strong relationships is the foundation of everything she does, both professionally and personally. She recently relocated to Durango from Summit County, CO bringing with her a background in social work, community development, and creative solutions to workforce housing initiatives. She strives to create lasting community bonds and connections and has worked within local government as a Planning Technician and Housing Specialist for the past 3 years. Prior to her time in the public sector, Sarah worked with a non-profit winter sports team as a snowboard coach and youth mentor for 10 years. Through her travels and various volunteer opportunities, Sarah has traveled to over 13 countries and loves immersing herself in new cultures and languages.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, yoga, and exploring the great outdoors. She is also very passionate about cooking and baking, gardening, and seeing live music. Sarah lives in Durango with her partner, Kevin, and their 3 goofy dogs; Eva, Koda, and Pearl.

A poorly lit image of Rosalinda in a library

Rosalinda Linares-Gray

Project RUN Manager

Rosalinda Linares-Gray is a justice-oriented advocate for equitable economic and educational outcomes in our region. Rosalinda manages Project RUN, a regional workforce development program led by the Alliance in collaboration with Fort Lewis College. Prior to this role, they were an academic librarian for 10 years, including 5 years overseeing Reed Library’s collections, research, and instructional services at Fort Lewis College.

Rosalinda centers community engagement in all aspects of their work—they are the head organizer of the Fort Lewis College Faculty/Staff of Color group; they have conducted collaborative qualitative research with FLC students on issues impacting students of color on college campuses; and they are an FLC NASNTI (Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution) Fellow focusing on supporting Native students through faculty development. Rosalinda has published evidence-based practices for program design and development, critical and open pedagogy, and equitable educational partnerships centering on learner experiences. They also have vast experience mentoring early career BIPOC workers, organizing outdoor trips for BIPOC students as a co-lead of the FLC Outdoor Equity group, and working in solidarity across communities of color.

Through their work in academia, Rosalinda understands the value that an educated, diverse workforce brings to local communities, while also acknowledging systemic barriers that prevent equitable access to educational pathways for all. Rosalinda is excited to work towards innovative solutions to upskill our diverse regional workforce for the betterment of our local communities.

Evan Sieger Intern at La Plata Economic Alliance

Evan Sieger

Social Media Coordinator

Evan Sieger, who started as the Event Coordinator Intern for the La Plata Economic Alliance, was focused on ensuring that the 2023 Summit is synonymous with the vision that the Alliance has. He took this position to help organize, plan, and market for the Summit. Now he is contracted to help coordinate the Alliance’s digital assets. Evan is currently majoring in Economics and minoring in Business Administration at Fort Lewis College; he’s finishing his sophomore year this fall and plans to graduate in 2025. Evan’s family has been in Durango for 40 years, and he’s passionate about improving the community while keeping Durango rooted in its core values.