County’s new planner settles in

Rachel Gates is settling in to her new role as the Rio Blanco County Planner. Niki Turner Photo

RBC | It’s been “about a month” since the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners named Rachel Gates as the new county planner. The county has contracted with Phil Vaughan of Rifle for several years to fulfill its planning needs and will retain his services as needed to assist Gates.

Gates moved to Meeker with her husband, Ty, a Meeker native and the Rio Blanco County Emergency Manager, six years ago. She holds a degree in communications from Denver University. She worked in real estate, finance and investment, and in 2012, she and Ty started 5280 Meats, supplying high quality, organic beef. All of those experiences combined give her a different perspective.

“I’ve been in the private sector and I can bring different ideas to the table,” she said. “Now in the public sector I’m working for the taxpayer. As a fiscal conservative, I take that very seriously.”

Her real estate experience has supplied her with knowledge of master plans and zoning regulations, particularly for residential properties. For large industrial projects, she’ll have access to Vaughan’s expertise as needed.

“Customer service was how we set 5280 apart—not letting things fall through the cracks, answering emails, responding to phone calls, letting people know if we don’t know the answer we’ll find it.” She intends to bring that same spirit of service to her work as planner.

“I love our community, more now than ever,” she said. The last six months have been fraught with turmoil for the Gates family. Ty suffered a table saw accident to his hand, one of their children required knee surgery, and last weekend the family’s century-old barn burned to the ground. Thankfully, none of their almost 50 goats were injured, and Ty, who ran into the burning building to rescue the animals, came away unscathed. The caring and support they’ve received from friends and neighbors during a difficult season has fired a greater desire to give back and do well for the community.

Asked about potential conflicts of interest with both herself and her husband working for the county, Gates said she doesn’t foresee a problem.

“There isn’t a whole lot of crossover. He reports to the sheriff’s office, I report to the commissioners.”

From a personal point of view, she said, “As a team we care a lot about our entire county. We want to do well, to the very best of our ability. We don’t take our responsibility lightly.”