Governor Hickenlooper names Jerre Stead state's 'chief recovery officer' after flooding

DENVER - A Colorado businessman will assume a new role in the state government, making him responsible for coordinating the rebuilding effort after the epic floods along the Front Range.

"We are about to embark on a rebuilding effort that is truly epic in scale," Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a Thursday afternoon announcement.

The governor named Jerre Stead, formerly CEO of Colorado-based IHS, to take on the new job. IHS specializes in energy, economics, sustainability and supply chain management.

"In other words, Jerre was really sent from heaven to do this task," Hickenlooper said.

The task is truly daunting. State estimates indicate over 17,000 structures were damaged by the flooding and 4,000 were swept away.

Stead is volunteering his time to the rebuilding effort. He will manage a support staff and liaisons within each agency involved.

Hickenlooper said Stead would be responsible for coordinating efforts throughout the state, but was careful to say the centralized role would not dictate how the rebuilding is done.

"This cannot and should not be legislatively decided -- dictated from Denver," said the governor.

He said each local community should answer, "Are we going to rebuild a road or a bridge exactly where it was, or are we going to rebuild it somewhere else entirely?"

The governor did mention some priorities, including 200 miles of destroyed or damaged state roads and reestablishing transportation to agricultural areas. In Weld County alone, approximately 120 bridges need attention.

"Critical roads needed to bring in crops that are about to go to harvest are completely broken apart and this has to be every bit as critical a priority as the roads connecting people to their communities," the governor said.

Additionally, Hickenlooper announced the creation of a Rapid Response Team within the Colorado Department of Transportation. Their task is to repair or rebuild as many miles of state highway as possible while the weather cooperates. They will be working with $100 million in state emergency funds and $35 million in federal funds.

"It's clear we are in a race against the onset of winter," he said.

Hickenlooper ended his address on a positive note, saying that as he toured the damage his perspective has changed. He began to notice how the residents of Colorado banded together to recover from the flooding.

"I've seen plenty of broken bridges, roads and homes, but I haven't seen a single broken spirit," he said.