RANGELY | On April 3, Rangely voters will go to the polls to choose three new town council members.
Former Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Deputy and Rangely Police Officer Rich Garner has decided to continue serving the community by seeking election.
“I have a long history of serving the public,” said Garner. “Seven years in the military, another 28 years in law enforcement, have instilled in me a sense of public service that did not end when I retired. I still feel the need to serve my fellow man and this is the way I chose to serve. I decided to run for council because there needs to be more transparency between the town government and the community which it serves. This happens several ways, one of them being interaction between board members and the public they serve.”
Garner is also concerned about what he describes as looming budgetary shortfalls facing the town. “Over the last few years the town has seen declining revenues and those issues are going to impact everyone, including my family, so I decided to get involved by becoming a member of the town council and working to bring more economic opportunities to Rangely.”
He views Rangely’s sense of community as one of the town’s greatest strengths. “Good times or bad, this community seems to band together and face any situation with determination and faith in each other and the town. I believe one of Rangely’s main weaknesses is an almost total reliance on the oil and gas industry for economic prosperity. If this community is going to prosper in the future, we need to diversify. This can come from many different avenues including tourism, manufacturing, education, and individual small business ventures. The way is there, we just need to find it,” he said. His primary goal is elected is to work towards this diversification. “Like everyone, I too want a Rangely that has opportunities for my children and my neighbor’s children. Opportunities that enable our youth to stay in Rangely, not just because they have too, but because they can and want to,” he said.
Garner views the council as the conduit between the citizen and the town government. “They represent the people and are intended to govern the town with the people wishes, and best interests, in mind,” he said. He describes himself as a conservative with libertarian leanings and said, “I believe the council’s role for governing the community should be to have as little negative impact as possible on the individual and create an environment for growth and prosperity.”
When asked about his thoughts on the current situation with Rangely Police Department Garner responded, “I think it goes without saying there is a rift between a portion of our community and the police department, anyone that attended the meeting on Jan. 23 would have to agree with that assessment. I believe most, if not all, of Rangely’s residents support the police department and recognize the hard work and sacrifice of the entire agency. But a significant number of citizens question the manner, but not the need, with which the Rangely Police Department is performing drug and alcohol enforcement within our community. I think the manner and conviction with which some people spoke at the meeting, both pro and con, surprised many in attendance, on both sides of the aisle. It also spurred those on the council and the police department to look at existing procedures and ask the question, ‘How can we do better?’”
Garner, 53, has lived in Rangely since 2009. He has been involved with the Western Rio Blanco County 911 Board, Child Protection Team, I-70 Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Advisory Board, Rangely School District Critical Incident Team, 4-H Shooting Sports and has volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce.
Luke Geer made the decision to run for town council as a way to put his objective and analytical personality to use for the community.
“I am emotionally invested in Rangely. I am here to stay. As part of this community, I seek to do what I can to help Rangely thrive,” he said. “I tend to be solution-oriented.”
Geer believes that the people of Rangely are the town’s greatest strength. “We are a town full of hard-working, supportive people who go above and beyond for this community. Rangely residents are resilient, having the ability to weather the fluctuating energy industry. Our people are truly the backbone of this town.” He also believes that weakness currently facing the community could be turned into opportunities. “Rangely is strong, always seeking opportunities to foster improvement. We all agree that we need a more diversified economy and more opportunities for employment. One thing recently brought to my attention is better water conservation as our watershed is a precious resource. Another opportunity could be in utilizing our new high speed connectivity, possibly by bringing in a call center or other information technology-based companies,” he said.
Geer views the role of the council as one of service. “The role of Rangely’s town council is to serve the people of Rangely. Good council members promote order and proper governance by respectfully representing our people and by advocating for the needs of the community. The purpose of the council is to be a reliable voice of the people of Rangely and to make decisions that meet the greatest needs of the town.”
“My overall goal is to be a fair-minded and helpful member of the council. I want to see Rangely thrive, through developing new economic ventures and continuing the growth of existing projects,” he said.
With regard to local policing practices, Geer said he doesn’t have all of the facts yet. “Hearing from all concerned would better equip me to answer this question. The PD has a job to do. People in law enforcement put their life on the line every day they put on the badge. I have enormous respect for that. This belief is deeply embedded in me following the loss of my cousin, Mesa County Deputy Derek Geer, in the line of duty two years ago. He was a fair-minded person who really cared for the people he served. I feel that should be the foundation for all public servants,” he said. “If I have the opportunity, I would like to collaborate with others to seek solutions. Our community is worth the effort of coming together to become more than we ever could be by ourselves.”
Geer has lived in Rangely off and on over the last few years, first from 2007 to 2009, then moving back in December 2015. The father of three currently works as the director of physical therapy at Rangely District Hospital where his wife is also employed.
“I feel the time away was only a journey to make it back here,” he said.
James Dillon says he’s running for town council because it is a way he could give back to his community.
“If I am elected I will do whatever I am able to help Rangely prosper and to use Rangely’s tax dollars wisely,” he said.
Dillon, who currently serves as board president for Giant Step Preschool and Child Care Center, sees the community as an asset. “I think Rangely’s greatest strength is that it is a very close-knit community. I also think that we’re a town that knows what it’s about,” he said. “The main weakness, I think, is the lack of economic diversity; Rangely is a boom-or-bust town, but I think that we could be on the cusp of a very large boom. I am pretty optimistic about the business environment right now, and I would like to see more drilling happen in Rangely; I’d also like to see more businesses opening up to take advantage of it.”
Dillon views the role of the council as one of fiduciary responsibility. “My belief is that government—as much as possible—needs to take a hands-off approach to governing. I think the town council’s main responsibility is make sure that our tax dollars are put to the best possible use, and ensuring that the town’s departments have the resources they need to do that.”
Asked about his thoughts on the police department public forum Dillon responded, “I wasn’t able to attend that meeting but I did watch all of the video on YouTube, and what I actually saw was very different from what I’ve heard about it. I don’t personally know much at all about any issues at the police department—and the meeting really didn’t help that—but I do think that gossip and rumor are serious problems, and it doesn’t sound like the formal complaint process was always used like it needs to be. Perhaps that is something that needs to be made clearer, but I don’t think that the meeting, as it was conducted, was the proper way to go about it.”
Dillon first moved to Rangely as a high school student in 2002. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2006, and moved back to Rangely in 2011 with his wife. Both Dillon and his wife are employed at Rangely District Hospital.
Matt Billgren was appointed to the town council in January and is seeking to retain his position. “I feel that this community deserves my support. We live and work here and have a vested interest in how Rangely thrives (or not). I don’t think I am the most qualified person to sit on the board of trustees, I have met a lot of very impressive people in this community who have much more knowledge of and experience with “town” business than I do, but for whatever reason, their names are not on the ballot so I accept the challenges that this office holds and am offering my time and experiences to be of service and help move us forward,” he said.
Billgren sees multiple strengths for Rangely to develop on. “In my opinion the people of Rangely is its greatest strength—a lot of hard working, law-abiding, patriotic and family oriented people. Additionally, the historical and cultural significance of this area and the remote geographic location is attractive to many who are seeking outdoor recreation. For such a small town to have two museums, a hospital, recreation center, a community college, an airport and many other resources that larger towns don’t have gives Rangely many opportunities to attract entrepreneurial growth and prosperity,” he said.
However, he also acknowledges that Rangely’s location can present challenges. “The remote geographic location that makes Rangely unique can also have a negative impact on attracting new businesses and travelers. We need to get the word out that Rangely is a great place to live and do business. This community is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry and the coal industry, we must diversify and look for opportunities not related to these industries to grow and sustain the economy here.”
He views the council as economic and infrastructure support. “I think government at all levels should have a limited governance on its people, we are here to support our community, not control it. The council’s role is to ensure that we provide the needed infrastructure for the town to sustain itself, lights, gas, water, emergency assistance, law enforcement, code enforcement, etc., the health and safety of our community must come first. We also need to promote economic growth and attract and welcome new visitors and new businesses.”
Billgren believes the community is divided on police department practices. “There are those that used the open forum a few weeks ago to voice their discontent over certain policing incidents, some valid and some not, and those who support the PD and feel that the department was subjected to unnecessary attacks on their policing tactics, their professionalism and their loyalty to this community. There are differences of opinion on both sides and the PD, the council and the town management have all been accused of not doing their jobs in the best interest of the ‘people of Rangely.’ I believe we need to put away our egos, our emotions, our personal interests, and quit listening to ‘he said, she said’ rants and finger pointing, stick with the facts, investigate the reports, resolve the issues, recognize our differences and move on. Our job as elected or appointed officials or as public employees is to serve the citizens of Rangely. The people of this community deserve better performances from ‘ALL’ of us,” he said.
Billgren also holds a position on the Rangely Planning and Zoning Committee. “I was very honored to have been appointed to the Rangely Board of Trustees to fill the vacant seat. I take this position seriously and will do my best to act responsibly while representing the citizens of Rangely. It would be most humbling to be elected by the people of Rangely and to be entrusted to represent them for another term. Although we are relatively new to Rangely, my wife and I have come to love this community,” he said.
Billgren and his wife Konnie came to Rangely in August 2015 as part of a job relocation. He works as a construction representative supervising construction and maintenance throughout the oil field. “I have worked for the same employer for over 36 years,” he said. His wife is director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Alisa Granger says she’s running for town council because she is a mother who cares about the future of Rangely’s kids and the environment they live in. “I am also a business owner who would like to see some growth in our community without compromising our small town values. My goal is to listen to the people and be their voice as we all strive to strengthen our community and make positive changes,” she said.
If elected, Granger would like to bring some diversification to the town. “K-12, CNCC, the county and the town are all affected when the valuation of the energy industry decreases, which, in turn, reduces the tax base. Therefore, I would like to see more businesses brought in, which would ultimately equal more revenue being generated while providing the convenience of shopping locally. This would provide diversity into our economy that we need so our community isn’t solely dependent on one or two industries,” she said.
“I have to say, hands down, that Rangely’s strengths lie within the people and the community, as a whole. When Ron and I moved here we fell in love with Rangely. We were welcomed with open arms and we felt the need to raise our daughter here; both of us grew up in rural communities and we want the same for her. Rangely has so much to offer with one of the best recreation centers in Colorado, with its beautiful building and the amazing and dedicated employees that provide exceptional programs for our community. We also have access to BLM land for recreational activities and Kenney Reservoir for summer fun,” she said.
While she views Rangely’s remote location and distance from amenities as a weakness, Granger also sees positives in it. “We are a close community, and our kids are able to live in a safe place without the fear of big city crimes,” she said.
Granger says the town council’s role is “to uphold the policies and procedures that are in place and to make or amend as needed. The role of a council is to address the needs of the community by working closely with our elected officials and addressing the concerns of the people.”
When asked about her views on the recent discussion concerning the local police department Granger said, “I believe that the public has some valid concerns and issues, and it is necessary that they get addressed in a timely manner. The Town of Rangely has taken steps to ensure improvements in the handling of complaints and to make sure each complaint gets a thorough investigation and a follow-up.”
Granger and her husband Ron moved to Rangely in the fall of 2016 when he took the position of president at CNCC. She owns a photography studio in town, volunteers at CNCC and with the chamber as well as substitute teaching in Rangely schools. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Professional Photographers of Colorado.
“As a wife, mother and business owner I’ve spent my life trying to make things better for others. If elected, I will bring those same values to the council and I believe I will be an asset to the community of Rangely,” she said.