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


Fort Lewis

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


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 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.

Edward Box111 board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Edward Box III

Public Sector Board Member

Town of Ignacio

Edward B. Box, III grew up in the Town of Ignacio. He is a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. He was raised in the Ute traditions and culture. He left Ignacio to live in Las Vegas, NV. In Las Vegas, he attended the University of Las Vegas – Nevada (UNLV) where he majored in Hospitality Administration. He worked at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas in Finance and Suite/Group Reservations.

Edward returned back home and work at the Sky Ute Casino Resort and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. He is currently the Mayor Pro Tem of the Town of Ignacio Board. He has served on several commission and boards such as Southern Ute Gaming Commission as the Chairman, Southern Ute Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors as the Vice-President, Southern Colorado Community Action Agency as a board member, and several more.

Edward believes in making a stronger community.

Ashleigh Tarkington board member at La Plata Economic Alliance

Ashleigh Tarkington

Public Sector Board Member

Town of Bayfield

Ashleigh Tarkington was elected as Mayor of Bayfield in 2020. She served as Trustee for two years prior and has served on the boards of Bayfield Chamber of Commerce, Pine River Library, and Region 9. Ashleigh Tarkington is a graduate of Fort Lewis College (2000) with a Bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She attended graduate school at California State University Long Beach before returning to the Bayfield area. She has owned and operated the Billy Goat Saloon since 2003.

The Billy Goat Saloon has been an island for thirsty travelers, a refreshing watering hole for touring motorcyclists and a live music hot spot for the Four Corners area for 30 years. The building that houses the Billy Goat Saloon was originally built in 1952, and has served as a rock shop and a café in the aptly named Gem Village before becoming a bar in the late 1950’s. It went by the names the Coloradoan, the Westerner, the Last Chance Saloon, and then finally the Billy Goat Saloon in 1982. The Goat celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012

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 exiting as the Chief Marketing Officer of a $3B company.

He went on to run a leadership development consulting firm for a couple of former Blue Angel pilots and Navy Admiral as Vice President of Operations.

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

He has been 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.

Michael French’s contact information is (970) 259-1700.

Please feel free to reach out to Michael if you have any questions or your business is in need of 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 Program 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.

Meaghan Lee intern at La Plata Economic Alliance

Meaghan Lee

Digital Marketing Intern

Meaghan Lee is a dynamic professional with a strong foundation in Business Administration and Marketing, having earned her degree from Fort Lewis College in 2022. Her passion for creativity and strategic thinking led her to specialize in social media marketing, digital marketing, and content writing. Eager to carve her path in the professional world, Meaghan is committed to
making a meaningful impact through her work with the Alliance.

Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Meaghan enjoys the outdoors and spends time skiing and fishing. She is dedicated to continuous learning and skill development, reflecting her
determination to excel and grow as a professional.

Evan Sieger Intern at La Plata Economic Alliance

Evan Sieger

Event Coordinator Intern

Evan Sieger, the Event Coordinator Intern for the La Plata Economic Alliance, is 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. 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.