'Founding father' of Highlands Ranch retires

Bruce Lebsack leaves metro district after 36 years

Posted 9/12/17

Bruce Lebsack was driving down County Line Road in 1981 when he saw a billboard that read 'Future site of Highlands Ranch.' There were no residents. C-470 was nonexistent.

The following weekend, after seeing an ad in the paper, 28-year-old …

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'Founding father' of Highlands Ranch retires

Bruce Lebsack leaves metro district after 36 years

Posted

Bruce Lebsack was driving down County Line Road in 1981 when he saw a billboard that read 'Future site of Highlands Ranch.' There were no residents. C-470 was nonexistent.

The following weekend, after seeing an ad in the paper, 28-year-old Lebsack applied to be the director of finance for what is now the Highlands Ranch Metro District and Centennial Water. He got the job, so he left his position as chief financial officer of Metro Wastewater.

“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to build something from scratch,” Lebsack said.

And that is what he did.

After 36 years, Lebsack recently left his position at the Highlands Ranch Metro District and Centennial Water. Retirement came faster than he anticipated. Lebsack, now 66, was diagnosed with cancer last Christmas. He continues to fight his battle, and “things are improving,” he said.

Lebsack wasn't just an employee — he was an influencer of the community that stands today. Terry Nolan, general manager of the metro district, calls him one of the “founding fathers” of Highlands Ranch. When asked what accomplishment of Lebsack's stands out, Nolan said:

“Wow — that is a hard question to answer because there are so many of them.”

One of Lebsack's first jobs was designing the metro district's building in 1984. Then a team of two, the finance department now has about two dozen people. He witnessed Highlands Ranch come to fruition — he saw the first houses sell, the first residents move in, the first streets built.

“It was unbelievable how it changed,” he said. “It changed on a weekly basis.”

Some of Lebsack's primary duties included acquiring financing for infrastructure, building customers, reinvesting and issuing debt. He put together some unique finances, including a 20-year evergreen provision with United Bank that allowed the metro district to bid for a line of credit to support debt. He set a mill levy that hasn't changed much over the years and helped establish the community's “extremely fair” water rate, he said.

“We tried to operate the districts as much as possible as a business rather than a government,” Lebsack said, “and it's been highly successful.”

All the while, he was hand-typing utility bills and driving around the community daily to see how it was changing and what was needed to accommodate development.

One of Lebsack's biggest success stories is the Highlands Ranch Mansion. He remembers visiting the property prior to the 2010 renovation, when it was owned by Mission Viejo, for fantasy football drafts and small gatherings. The outside wasn't too bad, he said, but the inside was pretty rough.

“We would barbecue pigs in the back yard,” Lebsack said. “It has some great memories all the way up my tenure.”

Lebsack was instrumental in figuring out how the metro district — which conveyed ownership of the mansion in 2010 — could renovate and operate the mansion without using tax dollars. He helped develop a business plan, in which private rentals cover operations and maintenance fees. Today, the facility is used for a range of public and private events, including free tours for the public, parties, community celebrations and weddings.

“That is a tremendous accomplishment to have that facility without using tax dollars,” Nolan said, “and Bruce gets a lot of credit for that.”

Nolan has mixed emotions about Lebsack's retirement. The two worked together for more than 20 years.

“Health is the number one thing,” Nolan said. “We are all hoping and praying he beats this challenge he is currently facing.”

Retirement is bittersweet for Lebsack, who originally planned to retire in two years, at 66 years old. The husband and father of three plans to do some nonprofit work when his health is back on track. He will contract with the metro district and help the new director of finance, Stephanie Stanley, who worked under him for 11 years, in her transition.

One thing is certain: he loved his job.

“It was a great 36-year run,” Lebsack said. “I wouldn't have traded it for anything.”

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