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Veterans find local government jobs through Fort Carson fellowship

Seth Bodine | The Gazette

A new fellowship program in the Pikes Peak region is helping veterans translate their military skills into jobs with local government.

The 16-week fellowship is designed to create a smooth transition, learning the language of the bureaucracy, said Darrin Tangeman, program manager for the Veterans Local Government Management Fellowship.

"We realized that we were surrounded by a community of military that had a great pool of candidates for local government," Tangeman said. "From my own experiences from retiring in the military, I wanted to forward opportunities to other veterans."

The fellowship is part of the Fort Carson Career Skills Program, which helps soldiers find civilian jobs as they're about to leave the Army. It places soon-to-leave troops, still on the military's payroll, with city workers in Fountain and Colorado Springs to gain experience in municipal work.

About 453,000 veterans were jobless in 2016, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although veteran unemployment has dropped from 8 percent in 2011 to 4.3 percent in 2016, veterans often don't find the right jobs, says a 2016 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Employers lack information about the skills military members earn during their service, the Chamber found.

"I spent seven months looking for a job in local government," Tangeman said. "I planned long before I got out of the military to begin in local government, but it's a tough industry to get into."

Tangeman said learning the language of local government helps immensely.

Fountain is one of the first to work with a veteran in the fellowship. Sgt. Major Everett Morrow worked in many departments in Fountain's municipal government, but inspection and engineering stuck with him.

"For me, it's all about how to make a difference. And I think the way the many projects we have and the many developments that's coming here in the city of Fountain, that was one way to have a hand in progress," Morrow said.

He recently was offered a permanent position with Fountain government.

Veterans bring valuable skills to local government, said Todd Evans, Fountain's deputy city manager.

"So when we have individuals that understand our community, but that also bring the experience level and the life skills that they've garnered from the military, in our world that is valuable," Evans said. "They come in as a known commodity . . . and they bring that experience and life skills. That's something that would take us literally 15, 20 to 25 years to teach an employee."

Lt. Col. John Trylch did a six-week fellowship with the Colorado Springs City Council, helping Councilman Bill Murray develop a concept for an advisory committee. He was offered a position with Fountain as community engagement manager.

Trylch, who previously worked at the Pentagon, said he sees similarities between working in federal and local government. He said local government is very personal, which he enjoys.

"You can see how people have developed personal relationships and an understanding, nuanced understanding, of the community that I really appreciated," Trylch said. "It actually cemented my desire to work in local government as well."