Wasilla, Alaska, is known as the home of one-time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who used to serve on the town’s city council and later became mayor.
Soon, it will be the new home of Ran Cochran and his daughter Sydney. Moving day was Wednesday.
“I figure to head north and west,” Ran said of the 3,500-mile trip.
Ran, former owner of Cochran Memorial Chapels in Meeker and Rangely, announced to friends on July 9 he was making a move to, of all places, Alaska.
“I thought, I am 40 years old, this is the perfect time for a great adventure and it surely doesn’t get any more adventurous than Alaska,” Ran wrote in an e-mail.
Ran, who had owned and operated the funeral home in Rio Blanco since 1998, sold the business in March to Joseph and Teresa Swiger, who changed the name to Rio Blanco Funeral Home.
“I’m very excited,” Ran said during a phone interview July 26. “It’s a good fit. They were looking for someone with some experience, and I was looking for the next step in my career.”
Ran’s daughter, who will be a third-grader, will attend school at the Iditarod Elementary in Wasilla.
“She’s very excited,” Ran said.
Also relocating will be Chewy the chihuahua and Smoochie the poodle.
“I doubt they will be pulling the dog sled,” Ran said.
While Ran will continue his career in the mortuary business, in a way, it will be like starting over.
“Colorado has no funeral licensure, so I went to mortuary school and I’ve taken and passed the national exams, but I’ve never been licensed, as Colorado does not license funeral directors, so I’ll start by serving an apprenticeship, like I did 20 years ago,” Ran said.
He will divide his time between funerals homes in Wasilla and Anchorage. Wasilla is a town of 10,000 people, Ran said, while Anchorage’s population is more than 275,000.
“Even 10,000 people sounds like a big city,” Ran said.
Ran, who also served as the county coroner — he replaced longtime county coroner Dr. David Eskelson — submitted his resignation to the county last month.
“My resignation will officially be after the vote (in the Aug. 10 primary election) is certified,” Ran said.
There are three candidates vying to become Ran’s successor as county coroner.
“I know all three and I have worked with all three and I have respect for them,” Ran said.
Asked how he thought the three-way race would turn out, Ran said, “I get asked that all the time. All I can say is I think the race will be close.”
The past year or so has been a rough one for Ran, at least health-wise. He was shot in the stomach during an accident in March 2009 and had several follow-up operations due to complications.
“It was kind of rough, but my friends and neighbors have stood by me. We went through this all together. I feel better than I have in several years. I’ve been given a clean bill of health. I feel like any healthy 40-year-old man should feel,” said Ran, who turns 41 on Aug. 23.
He’s looking forward to setting out on this new adventure.
“I’m extremely excited and a little nervous,” Ran said. “This is a great time to make a change in my life. Joseph and Teresa (Swiger) have stepped in and are taking good care of the people. I leave feeling good and knowing people will be well taken care of.
“I guess every good story has an end, and this is the time in my life to move on to the next chapter,” Ran said.
As far as his new home, to start out Ran and Sydney will live in an apartment above the funeral home in Wasilla, until they find someplace permanent.
“It’s a mile from Sarah Palin’s house,” Ran said of the funeral home. “We will become old friends, I’m sure.”
As of the end of the day Monday, the Rio Blanco County Clerk’s office had 983 ballots returned (34.4 percent) in the mail-in primary election. Of the 983 ballots returned, there were 853 Republican ballots, 125 Democratic ballots and five Libertarian ballots.
“That number of returned mail ballots surpasses the voter turnout in the 2008 primary (899),” said County Clerk Nancy Amick. “Interesting in that we have more than a week to go.”
Ballots must be returned by Tuesday, the date of the primary election.
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There are two contested county races — commissioner and coroner. Both races have three Republican candidates running for the paid offices.
The commissioner position pays $58,500 annually, while the coroner’s job pays $33,100.
Margie Joy, president of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce, said plans continue to move forward for a new executive director, to replace Shondah Otwell, who moved to Wyoming. However, the position could be restructured, Joy said, to have more of an economic development component.
“We are working on that and are trying to put those things in place … if we’re going to be an advocate for business,” Joy said. “There’s that potential … How do we create an environment for our existing businesses to grow? If each one added an employee, think what that would do to our community.”
Harry Watt will continue to fight the charge he violated a town parking ordinance.
Watt has been cited by the town of Meeker for an advertisement for Blue Spruce Inn that he had painted on the side of a truck, which is often parked at Watt’s Ranch Market. Watt and Melinda Parker own the Blue Spruce.
“I pleaded not guilty,” Watt said of last week’s hearing in municipal court. “The charge is having attached a sign to a parked vehicle. The other count is not having a permit for a sign.”
The next step, Watt said, is for a trial date to be set.
“In August sometime I have to go back again and then they will set a date for the trial … however my intention is to file a motion for dismissal. I dont think they have enough grounds.”
Watt is determined to press on.
“I might not live long enough to get this done, but I’ll do whatever it takes. If they win, I’ll appeal it and try again. My lawyer told me the First Amendment guarantees you can put anything you want on your truck. That’s freedom of speech,” Watt said. “My truck has been (parked) there all the time. I’ve been doing exactly what I’ve been doing for the last five years. It doesn’t sit there all the time … the only difference is I have a sign on it. The usage of that truck has not changed.”
Doug Pfau, whose contract was terminated by the Meeker School Board after one year as the superintendent, has a new job. Pfau will teach math at Roaring Fork High School in Glenwood Springs.
Apologies to Rangely Senior High football player Jake Smith, who was misidentified in a photo in last week’s paper.
I used an umbrella as I walked back to the office in the rain one day last week.
Pat Hooker, county administrator, stopped and asked, “Hey, you think you’re going to melt?”
“I could,” I said, laughing.
“I don’t think so,” Pat said.
“You’re probably right,” I admitted.
Then, when I reached downtown, Jean Gianinetti also gave me a hard time about my umbrella.
“I didn’t even know people in Meeker had umbrellas,” Jean said. “I don’t think I’ve ever owned an umbrella.”
Later, when I was still I feeling a little sheepish for carrying an umbrella, it dawned on me, both Pat and Jean had stayed nice and dry in their cars.
So much for getting wet.