Park County commissioners abruptly fired the county’s events coordinator on Tuesday, voting to terminate Teecee Barrett following a closed-door session.
Barrett had served in the position since January 2017, helping put on the annual Park County Fair and overseeing other events at the fairgrounds throughout the year.
Commission Chairman Jake Fulkerson declined to comment on the circumstances leading up to Tuesday’s decision, noting that state law requires confidentiality regarding personnel issues.
“Any time something like this happens, it’s very unfortunate,” Fulkerson said.
Reached Wednesday, Barrett declined to comment. She had worked for the county since 2012. Prior to being hired as the events coordinator, Barrett had worked in the Park County Clerk’s Office, serving in positions ranging from elections deputy to the commission’s recording secretary.
There was little public indication that the change was coming; Barrett had attended the public portion of the commission’s meeting on Tuesday morning. Joined by three members of the fair’s advisory board, Barrett had requested permission to spend up to $42,820 on new goat pens for the fairgrounds. Commissioners unanimously approved the request to increase the fair’s budget. Hours later, they unanimously voted to remove Barrett from her position.
The commission’s agenda indicates that the executive session had been planned days in advance, having been requested by County Clerk Colleen Renner to deal with a personnel matter. Renner and Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric were present for Tuesday’s discussion, but not Barrett.
Fair Advisory Board President Tiffany Brando said the news of Barrett’s termination, which Brando received Tuesday evening, came as “kind of a shock.” She noted that the board is set to meet next week.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to hammer some stuff out and as long as they get somebody in there that can do the job, it will work,” Brando said. “Not quite sure how to handle it yet.”
Commissioners indicated that the change in leadership was not a signal that commissioners plan to shift the direction of the fair.
“We don’t see any major changes at all,” said Fulkerson.
He noted that entertainment for the July 23-27 fair — the event coordinator’s biggest responsibility — has already been signed and the fair book is set to be printed next week.
“The fair is lined out [and] in pretty good shape,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston, the commission’s liaison to the fair’s advisory board. “Obviously there’s a lot of work between then and now, but a lot of the stuff has been taken care of and we should be ready to go.”
Commissioners plan to begin advertising the events coordinator next week “and hope to fill the position as soon as possible,” Fulkerson said. He believes it’s a good job opportunity, and “hopefully [it] won’t be too hard to get somebody to fill the role.”
In the meantime, Fulkerson said he’s confident that Audra Jewell, the office manager for the events department and fair, will be able to “keep the ball rolling.” Livingston added that the county has “very good support from the fair advisory board.”
Barrett’s removal on Tuesday continued a string of turbulent years for the fair and events department: The county is now looking for its fourth fair director/events coordinator in about four years.
Commissioners replaced Fair Director Jennifer Lohrenz with Events Coordinator Echo Renner in 2015 in effort to resolve conflict over who managed what on the fairgrounds; that shakeup also involved shrinking the power of the fair board. Renner resigned in late 2016 amid continuing conflict, being replaced by Barrett.
As for why the fair has continued to draw controversy, “man, I wish I knew,” Livingston said “I just wish I knew it.”
“I realize ... that position plays a huge part in the fair, but there’s also other stuff that that position takes care of for the county,” Livingston said. “And I’m hoping we can get someone else in that’s qualified to keep moving things forward.”
The Park County Fair Advisory Board meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Park County Fairgrounds.