Gene Tardy is getting an education.
Tardy, a new deputy district attorney in the DA’s local office, is learning about his new role with the 9th Judicial District and about his new life in Rio Blanco County.
And he’s doing it by listening, rather than by talking.
“For the first 60 or 90 days, my biggest goal is to keep my ears open and my mouth shut and learn about the community and get a feel for the office,” Tardy said in an interview May 27. He started with the DA’s office here on May 17.
So far, he likes what he’s been seeing and hearing.
“Everything has been good,” he said. “A great place to be. Good people and good business opportunities. There’s a general satisfaction with life here. People seem to be happy with it.
“I can honestly say, I have not met anybody who has not been extraordinarily kind,” Tardy added. “Both my wife and I have been touched by the random acts of kindness.”
Because Tardy and his wife, Karen, are still house hunting, he commutes from Lakewood, where the couple has a home. Gene Tardy was in private practice there — he worked as a contract prosecutor for the 3rd Judicial District until February — before accepting the job in Rio Blanco County.
“I commute up on Monday mornings and commute back on Friday afternoon, and my wife and I hate it,” Tardy said. “We do not have a permanent place (in Meeker) yet, but it is our intent to become permanent.”
Meanwhile, Tardy has been busying himself with getting up to speed on cases in the DA’s office.
“There are two types of cases that come into this office: Misdemeanors and felonies. One of the goals we want to accomplish here is the caseload becomes the caseload of the office, not of a particular deputy,” Tardy said. “We have two deputy district attorneys here, so it will require a lot of communication within the office. It’s not just my job; it’s the function of the entire office.”
Ian Fowler is the other deputy DA in the Rio Blanco County office. He came here in 2008.
“We are a service organization,” Tardy said. “Our job is to seek justice and provide service to all those who have to use the criminal justice system. The duty of this office is to seek justice, and you have to hear both sides of it to do that.”
Tardy grew up in Colorado, but had been to Meeker only one other time, and that was a long time ago.
“I had been to Meeker, but it was probably more than 30 years ago,” he said. “So, I hadn’t been back, not until I interviewed up here.”
Tardy replaced Jay Barasch, who was fired in March.
“I have not asked nor am I entitled to that information in regards to the turnover of this position. That is up to Mr. Beeson and the people who preceded me,” Tardy said. “Turnover is not a bad thing necessarily. You want to provide the appropriate level of service. If that service isn’t happening, you do what you have to do to provide that service.”
Martin Beeson is the district attorney for the 9th Judicial District, which has its main office in Glenwood Springs.
As far as what he has to offer, Tardy said, “I bring a lot of life experience. I bring a lot of job experience. I bring personal stability. But I don’t have all of the answers. I want to develop a knowledge based on the experience of others. It’s not fact-finding so much as learning.”
Now if he could just find the right house.
• • • • •
Nadine Grinstead is glad there is closure … finally.
During a sentencing last Friday in district court, Grinstead’s granddaughter addressed the man who attempted to sexually assault her when she was 13. The man — David Mitchum — was 37 at the time.
The incident took place in March 2008. Grindstead’s granddaughter was living with her at the time.
“When my granddaughter gave her statement … the judge was blown away,” Grinstead said. “Her statement was about her journey from the time it happened to where she’s at now. She said I’m at a good place now and she forgave him.
“I was so proud of her,” Grinstead said. “She’s an amazing girl.”
Mitchum pleaded guilty in February to an amended charge of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault on a child under the age of 15, a class 5 felony. He was sentenced Friday to six years of supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay restitution to the victim for counseling and medical treatment costs. As part of his sentence, Mitchum will also have to register as a sex offender.
Mitchum was sentenced to serve 90 days in the Rio Blanco County Detention Center, before his case is transferred to Kentucky, where he lives. But he avoided any prison time.
That is, unless he violates his probation.
“If he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, he will go to prison,” Grinstead said.
Mitchum addressed the court Friday.
“When it was his turn, he did apologize to her, but it would have been better if he had looked at her,” Grinstead said. “But he would never look at her.”
Grinstead also spoke at Friday’s hearing, giving a statement on behalf of the family. Grinstead said the sentencing brought a measure of closure, but it was her granddaughter’s statement — and courage — that helped her deal with her own anger toward Mitchum.
“I don’t have any anger toward him,” Grinstead said. “When she (her granddaughter) gave her statement and she forgave him, then I let it go.”
• • • • •
John Wix’s case won’t go to trial, which had been scheduled to start this week.
In an agreement reached May 27, Wix will plead guilty to reckless endangerment, a class 3 misdemeanor. He will enter his plea in county court Monday.
As part of the agreement, Wix will receive a deferred judgment and sentence. Under the agreement, one of the stipulations was that Wix write a letter of apology to the victim in the case, which involved underage drinking Aug 1, 2009, at Wix’s upriver property. He was 51 at the time; the victim was 15.
• • • • •
The Rangely-Dinosaur Tea Party group will have a rally Monday, June 14, which is Flag Day. The rally will take place outside of the Rangely Town Hall.
“It sounds like we will have folks coming from Grand Junction as well as Craig, so hope we end up with a good group,” said Gordon Byers, who is involved with the Rangely-Dinosaur Tea Party group.
• • • • •
Meeker’s Tea Party group hosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis on May 30. McInnis’s wife, Lori, is from Meeker.
“I thought the meeting with Scott McInnis went great. We had a good turnout for such short notice and I think Scott McInnis did an excellent job presenting his plans should he be elected governor,” said Sam Thiessen, president of the Meeker group. “I was glad to hear he supports placing a cap on state spending and plans to uphold TABOR. And I was encouraged to hear he is ‘100 percent pro life.’ On the other hand, I personally would like to see a little more drive for limited government and lower taxes. Mr. McInnis certainly seems to agree with these principles; I think we just have them prioritized differently.”
Asked if the local group will endorse candidates, Thiessen said, “The Tea Party plans to hold off on any endorsements until we have given all the candidates a chance to address our group. That being said, Dan Maes seems to be the more Tea Party friendly candidate in the race (for governor), but I would have no problems supporting either candidate when we get the primary results in August.”
• • • • •
Teachers and staff continue to move their things out of the old Meeker Elementary School. The new school will be ready when classes open in August.
The closing of the old elementary school, built in 1939, has brought back memories for people who had an association with the school.
“It was bittersweet to see the elementary students competing in their field day events in the center of town May 27, realizing it would probably be the last time for that activity at this location. Their presence in the downtown area will be missed by many,” said Iris Franklin, a former teacher herself and current member of the Meeker School Board.
“At the same time since their tours of the new Meeker Elementary School, many children have expressed their excitement about their new school,” Franklin said. “It will be wonderful for them and their teachers to have the opportunity to move into a state-of-the-art facility with a much safer environment, spacious, cheerful classrooms, technology updates and special facilities for science, library, art, music and activities that offer students, parents and the community more options for education and events.”
• • • • •
Rio Blanco County will take its cue from the state when it comes to regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
“On Monday, Gov. Ritter signed the statewide medical marijuana bill, which establishes statewide regulations,” said Kent Borchard, county attorney. “When I return to Colorado next week, I will be meeting with the commissioners to discuss the new regs. I assume they will then decide what will be done in Rio Blanco County.”
• • • • •
I found out after the fact that Shelly and Rus Hooper from Rangely attended the Eagles concert I went to recently in Denver.
“It had always been a dream of mine, since I was a teenager, to see them as well,” Shelly Hooper said. “The opportunity had never worked out until now, but I think it was well worth the wait don’t you? … That night I was no longer almost 50 years old. I was a teenager again, singing along, dancing, clapping and screaming. I even splurged and bought one of those ridiculously priced sweatshirts. It truly was a night that exceeded my dreams and expectations. Not to mention it was pretty fun feeling young and ‘letting my hair down’ for a little while.”
I know exactly what you mean, Shelly.
• • • • •
After getting the paper out last week, I traveled to Minnesota for a few days to visit my kids, at least three of the four anyway. While there, I slept in the same bed I slept in when I was growing up.
Talk about coming full circle.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.