Whitefish City Manager Stearns to Retire

Chuck Stearns plans to retire after eight years as Whitefish's chief administrative officer

By Dillon Tabish
Whitefish City Manager Chuck Stearns on Dec. 11, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Chuck Stearns will retire as city manager of Whitefish at the end of the year.

Stearns informed city officials earlier this week that he plans to step down after eight years as Whitefish’s chief administrative officer.

He said he plans to retire at the end of 2016, ending a career in local government that spans nearly 33 years. Stearns took over as city manager in December 2008. He emerged as the top candidate among 65 who applied for the job at a time when Whitefish was experiencing significant, sudden growth.

Stearns said his retirement will be effective Jan. 6, 2017.

Stearns is stepping down after tackling several key issues over the last eight years, including financing and completing large, complex construction projects such as the Emergency Services Center, Central Avenue reconstruction and the Second Street reconstruction. Stearns has also helped guide the development of the new city hall and parking structure in downtown.

“It takes a hard-working and great staff to get all those things done, so I can’t take sole credit for those,” Stearns said.

The city also received an A- bond rating for the 2009 tax increment bonds. By refinancing the city’s TIF bond last year, the city saved over $414,000 over the last five years of the bonds. Whitefish also successfully transitioned from a 12-hour-per day fire and ambulance service to a 24-7 service. Stearns was also instrumental in Whitefish’s decision to secure a conservation easement on the Haskill Basin land in the municipal watershed.

“As I said, the Mayor, City Council, staff, and community really made these things possible – I just help steer the ship,” he said.

Stearns turns 60 in July 2017 and said he plans to travel around the world on bicycle with his wife before returning to Whitefish to enjoy ski season.

Before taking the manager position in Whitefish, Stearns  served as town administrator in Georgetown, Colorado and town administrator in Mount Crested Butte, Colorado. He also served as finance director and city clerk for the city of Missoula.