From My Window: Russell George to be great loss; students looking at move to college

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
For the betterment of society, some people just shouldn’t be allowed to retire.
But at age 70 and after an incredibly productive career in service to the people of Colorado as well as its government, Russell George deserves to sit back, retire and enjoy the life he has been too busy to enjoy until now.

George announced last week that he will be retiring from his post as president of Colorado Northwestern Community College.
George was one of the first people I met when I moved to Meeker and it was easy to tell that this man liked people, was incredibly intelligent, knew what he was about and where he wanted to go and that he was an awesome ambassador to CNCC.
But George wasn’t always an educator and it might even be said that it is odd he was pegged as president of a two-year college to end his career.
George is so much more than an educator/administrator, although he does have years and years as an administrator behind him.
The man can talk education but he can also talk water. He can talk transportation, he can talk all kinds of Colorado natural resources and he can talk wildlife and Colorado legislation.
He has done it all. He has done more than most persons who have worked in several careers—and he did a good job at each of them.
Prior to taking over the reins at CNCC, George was executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation from January 2007 through January 2011. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources from January 2004 to January 2007. Prior to that, he was director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) from 2000 to 2004.
That’s not bad public service for a boy who grew up as a fourth-generation native of Rifle. That’s 16 years as a public servant to the government and the people of the state.
But that’s not all.
Prior to those years, he served as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives and was so respected that he was also elected as Speaker of the House by his colleagues.
Even more impressive.
But prior to that, George practiced law in Rifle for 25 years after having been graduated from Colorado State University and the prestigious Harvard Law School.
Whew! Now that is a career.
George is also one of Colorado’s foremost specialists on water. Not only was he executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which governs just about everything water-related in Colorado, when he was a lawyer, he went to court over many kinds of law including water law.
Water is one of the top, if not the topic of concern for the future and he asked me early on if I could join a group called the Community Network that gathers monthly at CNCC. Water issues, which I had long had an interest in, was one of the group’s main concerns.
I told him I would love to but that since the group meets on Tuesdays, which was my busiest day at the office, I couldn’t be relied on to take part.
But besides education and water, Russell George adds so much more with his field of expertise being so far-reaching and varied.
Colorado will lose a great statesman.
Colorado will lose a great educator.
Colorado will lose a great mind.
And Colorado will lose a great friend and supporter.
Best of luck to you and Neal, your lovely wife, and hopefully you will have many years to enjoy your retirement.
George says he will continue to be involved, particularly with CNCC, possibly as a volunteer and that he is a very strong supporter of the community college system because there are so many students who can benefit from the cost-saving, learn-at-your-own-pace, smaller student-to-instructor ratio at community colleges, which have a tendency to make college students successful in a way some larger colleges and universities can’t and won’t do.
More sage advice…

Speaking of education…
Probably the biggest thing going on now around Rangely and Meeker and in almost every town and city across the country are the numbers of high school seniors who are now applying to college.
High school seniors across the country are filling out college applications, scholarship forms, FAFSA forms for student aid, bank loan forms, etc., in preparation for that next step in life after high school.
I have written several times in the past about the importance of getting some kind of degree, from a certificate in some useful occupation to a regular college degree, post-graduate degree and even an advanced degree.
The numbers are staggering when you look at the average income of a student who just graduates from high school compared to those who stuck with it and advanced their degrees even from high school to a two-year associate degree.
Incrementally large steps are earned on a national scale when you add each level of academia from high school graduate to those who earn an occupational certificate to those who earn an associate (two-year) degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of the best-paid occupations now and in the future can be obtained with a two-year associate’s degree —nursing, dental hygiene, dental assistant and others—but those are few and far between. Some computer degrees earned at a community college can set a student up for an interesting and lucrative lifetime occupation.
But the key is truly to figure out what it is that you want to do with your life.
After a field of study is decided upon, the next step is to decide where a good college is located to help you reach your goal, whatever that is. This can now be done on the computer quite easily without having to order a large number of college catalogs.
Payment is also a concern. There are grants, scholarships and low-cost loans available. I would have to agree with the statement that was in common use when I was public information officer for Mohave Community College in Arizona: Cost should not be a deterrent from earning a degree.
One only has to look at the lifetime income figures between each step of education to see the importance of each level of education.
There is roughly a $300,000 to $400,000 lifetime income difference between levels, and that, folks, is a big difference.
Take your time. Look into all facets of an education, then make the plunge in the direction you want to go.
It will pay off—for you, your future family and your quality of life.

A vehicle is a deadly weapon.
Like a gun, a car serves a purpose but it can also be deadly—a real killer.
Such was the evidence that the eighth graders at Barone Middle School and Meeker High School students learned Thursday, Feb. 11.
A mock trial was held for T.J. Shelton, the MHS student who was the “driver” in a mock “triple fatality” accident staged on the high school campus on Oct. 29. Students from both schools were treated to the bloody aftermath of the staged accident in which five MHS students were involved—three were killed, one was seriously injured but survived and there was the driver— Shelton.
The students watched the entire process, from the time law enforcement and emergency medical services showed up to find an exposed body in the parking lot and four victims in the car. Three of those students subsequently died after having to be extricated and one was heavily injured around the face and head.
Makeup was not spared to make the victims appear heavily injured. The makeup on the first obvious victim—the body in the parking lot—is too graphic to run a photo of in the newspaper.
On Feb. 11, a trial was held for Shelton at MHS, and the jurors were his peers or fellow students at MHS
To make a long story short, the jury “convicted” a “drunk” Shelton of three counts of vehicular homicide, and Judge Nobel sentenced him to three consecutive 10-year sentences in prison for the deaths and one year each for texting and driving and for careless driving causing bodily injury for Nick Burri’s injuries.
Actually, Shelton got off pretty cheaply.
Drinking and driving is a serious offense
The court sentences, fines and jail times can be years longer than 10 years when convicted, it will cost thousands, your entire career or planned career could be ruined, but, most of all, you have a whole lot of guilt that will follow you the rest of your life.
Hey, you took the life of an innocent bystander. The victim may be someone’s mother, father, brother, son, sister, daughter, infant, etc., and you will get to carry that with you the rest of your life.
It is great that these students in Meeker were given the chance to see what can happen in the real world, and they are the only ones who can make sure that it is none of them driving the next time a similar accident takes place.
This was an inexpensive lesson to all. It can become a lot more ugly and expensive in just the snap of one’s fingers.

Sean McMahon is the editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times.