By David Martin

County employee retires after 38 years


December 9, 2020

Courtesy photo

Mark Kot, the county's public lands planner, will retire after spending 38 years with the county. Kot has worked on several initiatives, such as Operation Desert Pride and a growth management plan originally conceived to help create a standardized set of regulations that would foster uniform development on county lands near Green River and Rock Springs.

A 38-year employee of Sweetwater County's land use department will be retiring at the end of the year.

Mark Kot, the county's public lands planner, said he has enjoyed working in various roles at the Sweetwater County Courthouse during his time as an employee. Kot was originally hired in 1983 as an engineer and surveyor. Kot originally came to Rock Springs in 1979, being hired by the Bureau of Land Management as a temporary hydrologist.

"The job was supposed to last four months," Kot said.

Kot, who resided in Winter, Wisc., prior to coming to the county, said he was aware of Rock Springs because of the well-known crime and corruption occurring in the city at the time. When accepting the job offer during a phone call with a BLM representative, Kot recalls asking if "that was the place with all the crime and corruption." Kot said he had worked the previous summer in Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs, Colo., and expected the landscape to be similar to those areas. Driving along Interstate 80 through Laramie towards Rock Springs, Kot remembers constantly fighting the wind as he drove, eventually pulling over near the Red Desert thinking something was causing his vehicle to drift. He quickly learned the wind was so strong it was pushing his vehicle to the side as he drove. Upon arriving in Rock Springs and getting a room at the Springs Motel, he used a pay phone to call his mom.

"This place looks like the moon," he remembers telling her.

Following his time at the BLM, Kot said he was a day away from moving back to Wisconsin because he was unable to find work. The day before he planned to leave, he received a call from Glenn Sugano, a longtime Rock Springs city employee future city councilman, offering him a job at the city's solid waste treatment facility.

The facility Kot worked at was behind where the Albertsons grocery store is located, not the current treatment facility west of Rock Springs. He said the facility was 1 million gallons over capacity -- a symptom of the explosive growth the city had seen in the previous decade.

"When that red light went off, you went down and opened up the floodgates, emptying it all into the Bitter Creek," Kot said.

After leaving that job and a position at the Jim Bridger Power Plant, he would be hired at the county, with his initial task being to survey all of the county roads, a task he doesn't believe has been accomplished yet. Deciding he didn't want to be 40 and going out into the freezing cold as a surveyor, Kot applied for an open planner position in the land use office. In the following years, Kot worked his way through the office, becoming the community development supervisor in 1995 and the public lands planner in 2011.

During that time, Kot helped initiate Operation Desert Pride, a group committed to cleaning up the garbage left in the Red Desert, He said the organization would host half a dozen cleanup events each year, with volunteer numbers ranging from a few people to a small army committed to picking up the litter. Kot also credits the organization with introducing him to his wife, Linda, whom he met while working the Operation Desert Pride booth at the Sweetwater County Fair.

Kot also has pride in his work on the county's growth management plan, which aimed to create an agreement between the county and the Green River and Rock Springs municipal governments regarding growth and zoning on county lands surrounding the two cities.

More recently, Kot believes his work as the county lands planner, which he teamed up with Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson, has benefitted the county and its residents.

Kot credits Johnson for creating his current position, which has been aimed at keeping Sweetwater County a cooperating group with federal agencies and helping push a multiple-use philosophy for federal lands, supporting both industrial and commercial uses for federal lands, as well as recreational uses. Kot cites the county's work with organizations like the Greater Little Mountain Coalition and promoting protections for Adobe Town and portions of the Red Desert in helping protect the county's vital areas.

"Wally made this job possible," Kot said. "We're protecting the wide open spaces and the economy of Sweetwater County that's derived from it.

Kot believes that moving forward, the county should continue striving for and maintaining a working relationship with the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and other federal entities.

"It's through those relationships you get things done," he said. "Recreation comes from open spaces, we need to keep the (balance between industrial and recreational uses) viable."

Overall, Kot said the last 36 years working for the county have treated him well, as well as given him a chance to interact with people in a wide range of fields and expertise.

"It's always been an interesting opportunity to visit places with people who know a lot about oil and gas, archeology or biology," Kot said.

Kot doesn't plan to rest once he's retired. If anything, he plans to be as active as he can.

"Sitting for 35 years has wrecked my back," Kot said.

Kot said he intends to travel, having an interest in visiting Poland, Greenland and Morocco, as well as "anywhere else my wife wants to visit."

He also has an interest in being a substitute teacher and wants to take a class to study calculus, something he never had the chance to do. Kot said he intends to work out more and continue exploring Sweetwater County, saying there are 12 wilderness study areas and a number of places he hasn't seen yet.

He said he's also trying to photograph the seven species of chickadee bird in North America, having already photographed three of the seven.

Kot also said he has an interest in promoting dark sky lighting in Green River and Rock Springs. The lighting is designed to allow for more starts to be visible in the night sky. Standard streetlights cause light pollution, which is excessive and misdirected outdoor lighting that can obscure stars and has been linked to having adverse effects on health.

"I want to be part of this community," Kot said.


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