Former commissioner has advice for county officials

RBC — After listening to Tim Schultz speak at last Thursday’s Community Networking Group in Rangely, I wished I had recorded what he had to say.
It was that good.
In fact, had it been recorded (I’m still kicking myself I didn’t tape it), it should be required listening for all future Rio Blanco County commissioners. It could be sort of a county commissioner 101 course.
Two county commissioners were in the audience, as well as a county commissioner candidate and a former county commissioner.
Schultz was speaking their language.
He wasn’t just talking like some big-city, highfalutin’, motivational speaker.
No, Schultz has been in the trenches. He knew what he was talking about. He had been through the wars. He could relate to the challenges commissioners deal with.
Schultz was a Rio Blanco County commissioner about 25 years ago, during the last oil boom … and bust.
And he lived to tell about it.
Schultz went on to build an impressive résumé. He was director of DOLA — the Department of Local Affairs — for the state of Colorado for a time. And he’s currently director of the Boettcher Foundation in Denver, a role he’s been in for quite awhile.
But his roots are in northwest Colorado.
Schultz operated a ranch, which was situated pretty much smack dab in the middle of the county, between Rangely and Meeker. When he was a county commissioner, he was a young man in his 20s.
He made mistakes, he would tell you. But he grew up during that time. He learned a lot.
He learned to be an effective communicator … and listener. He learned the importance of working with others. He learned to compromise. He learned that first and foremost, his allegiance was to the residents of Rio Blanco County, despite whatever bullying tactics may have been employed by the big oil companies.
In other words, he learned to stand up for what he believed in.
Schultz said he didn’t see the oil companies as adversaries. Rather, he tried to work with them as much as possible, as long it was in the best long-term interests of the county.
In his comments last Thursday, Schultz didn’t take cheap shots at the oil companies. Just the opposite. He respected the fact they had a job to do. But, as a county commissioner, so did he.
There was a representative of one of the oil companies in the audience last Thursday. She nodded in approval as Schultz spoke. She agreed, it is important the oil companies and community leaders keep lines of communication open. They need to cooperate, to work together.
And, in the end, they both have to do what’s best for their constituencies.
Another bit of advice Schultz gave for county commissioners, both current and future: Think long term. Don’t go for the quick fix. Using the best crystal ball possible, plan for the future. Make decisions, like the County Capital Improvement Trust Fund, that will stand the test of time, that will last long after you are out of office.
After all, the boom won’t last forever.
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This was my first time to attend a meeting of the Community Networking Group. I was impressed.
I was told the group doesn’t always have a guest speaker, like it did last Thursday. But what a great, well, networking opportunity.
And, for someone new to the area like me, it was informative and it gave me a chance to meet new people, like Dwayne Newman, the new Rangely school superintendent and former Meeker High School principal, or get better acquainted with some I had already met, like Peggy Rector of Rangely.
Rector is the driving force behind the networking group, as she is with any project she gets involved in, whether it’s Colorado Northwestern Community College or the Rangely Rock Crawling Club. She’s a person who get things done, and my hat is off to her for bringing in Tim Schultz to speak. That was a treat.

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Meeker has a version of the networking group — the Community Planning Task Force. It’s focus is on identifying community needs, prioritizing them, and encouraging various groups and entities to share information and work together on projects.
Basically, the idea being various community groups can learn from each other and help each other.
They can even learn from outsiders.
That’s why representatives of Pinedale, Wyo., will be here later this month: to share what they have learned in working with the energy industry. Like here, Pinedale’s biggest industry is oil and gas development.
It should be a good exchange of ideas.

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When my parents visited a few weeks ago, they brought me a framed print of Philip Sheridan, the Civil War cavalry general and Indian fighter.
I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard there are distant relatives of Sheridan living in Meeker.
An aunt of mine gave me the print years ago, because, it turns out, Sheridan and I share the same birthday. I was interested in Civil War history growing up, and even though Sheridan wasn’t necessarily one of my favorite figures from the war — he was a scrappy commander whose overly aggressive tactics were sometimes questionable — I did have at least one thing in common with him.
History has been critical of Sheridan for his role in the Indian Wars, where he put his Civil War “scorched earth” strategy to use, including against the Utes.
I had lost track of the Sheridan print, until my folks recently returned it. Turns out it was in the possession of my ex-wife, who gave it to my parents to give to me.
She probably thinks Sheridan and I have more in common than the same birthday.