Peggy Rector never thought of herself as a trailblazer.
But that’s what she was.
“That really wasn’t even on my mind, to be honest with you,” she said.
Rector was the first woman to serve as mayor of Rangely. She was also the first — and only woman, so far — to serve as a Rio Blanco County commissioner.
“I never really truly, honest to God, gave that a thought,” Rector said of being a maverick. “I had some people contact me and ask me to run.”
For her, it just seemed like the natural progression of things.
“I was just working my way up the ladder,” she said. “Local government is my love.”
Rector’s involvement in local government started out on the town planning commission, then the town council. She worked her way up to county commissioner, serving from 1987 to 1991.
Rector loved her time as a commissioner. But her career in local politics was cut short by a car accident.
“My only regret was having the car wreck,” she said.
Rector remembers the day — it was March 9, 1989.
“It was during the daytime,” she said. “The weather was gorgeous. Who will ever know what happened? I had been in D.C. lobbying for the county, and I had gotten back on a Sunday night. This was a Monday morning. I had stopped at the courthouse (in Meeker) and I was headed to a meeting in Rifle. I think what happened, I fell asleep.”
Rector, who was by herself at the time of the accident, woke up in the hospital.
“At the time, I didn’t remember anything,” she said. “Even now, I don’t remember much.
“I tried to finish my term,” Rector continued. “I spent two years in (Grand) Junction rehabbing. But I just finally had to give it up (being a commissioner).”
Rector would’ve liked to have run for a second term as commissioner, but conceded she wasn’t up to it.
“I would’ve loved to have had a second term,” she said. “I think that’s when you’re the most effective.”
Rector suffered numerous injuries from the accident, the most serious being a closed-head injury.
“I was in the hospital for quite a period of time. I had to learn to read and write all over again,” she said. “When I went back to trying to be a commissioner, I realized I couldn’t go forward anymore. I was pretty much faking my way through stuff. I had to recognize what my limitations were at that point.”
When Rector joined the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners, she was not only the first woman to serve in that position, it was also one of the few times the west end of the county had two commissioners represented on the board at the same time.
“I served with Kenneth (Kenney),” she said. “That was one of the few times we had two commissioners from this end of the county.”
Besides being a woman, Rector’s political affiliation also bucked the trend. She was a Democrat in a county that is overwhelmingly Republican.
Rector said she learned from observing commissioners like Kenney and others who came before her.
“It’s been interesting to watch the whole dynamics for our county,” she said. “Thank God we had people like Tim Schultz, Allan Jones and Kenneth Kenney (who were responsible for establishing the County Capital Improvement Trust Fund, better known as CCITF).
“Those guys, in my opinion, over the years have probably been the best set of commissioners this county has seen in a long time,” Rector said. “They really did their homework. They were very effective. We watched all of the other (energy-impacted) counties disperse most of their money in the first year. But the foresight of those three commissioners … we’ve been able to award grants off of that for a long time. They had a view of the future. I think sometimes that’s what we lack today, at all levels.”
Being a commissioner was hard work, Rector said, if you did it right. And if you were a woman.
“I had to work harder,” she said. “It was interesting. I can’t say I was treated any differently. I spent a lot of time away from home, and I had kids in school. That becomes difficult, but that’s the way it is if you do the job the way you need to do it.”
Though she hasn’t served in public office since her days as a commissioner, Rector is still very much involved in local affairs. She serves on the board of directors of the Rangely Chamber of Commerce. She’s volunteered for community events, such as Septemberfest and the Crab Crack, as well as the Rangely Rock Crawling Club. She’s active in the Community Networking Group. And she’s president of the Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation Board of Directors.
“My whole goal after that (since the accident) … everyone was so good to me. My family, my friends, everybody was real supportive … I needed to give back,” Rector said. “I believe you must always give back to your community and county. This is a great county and town to live in. That’s why I’ve stayed involved.”
And she’s glad to see more women involved in local politics.
“As far as supporting women for office, I definitely do with the proper qualifications, dedication and willingness to truly serve and put in the time required to do a good job,” Rector said.
Currently, both Rangely and Meeker have women mayors. And Meeker’s town administrator is a woman.
“It was a pleasure to serve,” Rector said of her own political experience. “It was an interesting time, breaking through the barrier. It’s typically been a man’s world. But that’s changing, I think, and that’s good.”
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Karla Watson and her son Rob, who have K&R’s DJ and Karaoke Services, will have a benefit dance contest Feb. 13 at the Meeker Golf Course.
“There will be a cover charge, and we’ve chosen to make a donation to Chris Holthus (son of Mike Blagg of Meeker), who has cancer,” Karla Watson said.
Diana Blagg Jones, owner of Meeker Drugs and the third generation to run the family business, said her half-brother has lymphoma.
“He went through a bone marrow transplant a few months ago,” Jones said. “But it didn’t take. About three weeks ago, he had a PET scan and they found more tumors. On Christmas Eve, they told him he was terminal and there was nothing else they could do for him.”
Jones said Chris was receiving hospice care at home in Denver. Chris, 39, has been battling cancer for about 18 months.
“Right now, he’s feeling all right,” Jones said. “He’s not in too much pain. He’s put up a really hard fight. He’s tried everything to kick it … whatever he could do. He has a 5-year-old son. That’s what has kept him fighting.”
Chris has lived off and on in Meeker and has received a lot of support from family and friends.
“The church there (The Church at Meeker) has been so great,” Jones said. “The church family has been so supportive. Jim Ellis and Pastor Mike (Dinwiddie) have been just amazing. Just this community … everyone is so kind.”
• • • • •
Rangely’s School Board is considering going to a four-day school week, something Meeker tried from 1991 to 1995.
There are about 60 school districts in Colorado that have gone to a four-day school week.
“Most of them are small,” said Mark Stevens of the Colorado Department of Education.
Asked if he’s noticed a trend, Stevens said, “I think it’s been somewhat stable, but more and more districts are studying it. I assume (finances) is the primary reason.”
Of the approximately 60 school districts in Colorado that have gone to a four-day school week, most of them, about 45, are closed on Fridays. The rest are closed on Mondays.
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Rangely’s School Board has also decided to have the old Parkview Elementary demolished, after no new tenants were found to occupy the building.
Tim Webber, director of the Rangely Recreation District, said the rec district has an interest in the land the building sets on, since it is located across the street from the newly remodeled recreation center.
“We’re definitely interested in the land, not the building, but the land,” Webber said. “At this point, we’re just thinking it could be open space. But the cement footprint, like the stairs, could be salvaged and could be turned into a skateboard park.”
School Superintendent Barry Williams said he expected the old grade school building, which has been closed up for the winter, would be demolished in the spring. The building sets on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
“They could sign it over to us,” Webber said. “I think that could happen. We’re going to be here for a while, and the open space, we could use it. The possibilities are unlimited.”
• • • • •
Pioneers Medical Center had an open house last week for its remodeled lobby at Meeker Family Health Center.
“We have been doing some remodeling to streamline the patient experience at PMC, so we want to show it off,” said Margie Joy, hospital spokeswoman.
PMC is also continuing its physician recruitment efforts.
“We are currently conducting first or second interviews with three physicians interested in our practice opportunity,” said Bob Omer, hospital chief executive officer. “We hope to fill both of our physician (vacancies) in the near future.”
• • • • •
Work schedules have sure changed for Dave and Enid, who for the past almost 30 years owned and operated The Bakery in Meeker, which closed its doors for good on Christmas Eve Day. For Dave, it meant working through the night baking, and for Enid it meant going to work at 4 in the morning, when The Bakery opened for business.
“Now I wake up and look at the clock and think, I don’t have to get up yet,” Enid said.
The Steffens plan to open a gift/thrift store sometime this month in the same location. But it won’t be open for business at 4 a.m.
• • • • •
White River Electric Cooperative was one of 80 Colorado companies to receive an Environmental Leadership Award.
WREA was recognized for its efforts to handle its waste in an environmentally-responsible manner, for its work with various government departments regarding threatened species and habitat protection, for its compliance with water management and for its efforts to promote energy efficiency to its members.
• • • • •
Kris Casey’s dad was visiting from Iowa last week and had a memorable trip — he shot an elk and won at bingo on the same day.
“Yes, my dad (Paul Hain) is from Iowa, and, yes, he did get an elk and win twice at bingo (sponsored by the Meeker Lions Club the first and third Wednesdays at the fairgrounds),” said Casey, who is a teacher at Barone Middle School in Meeker and a cross-country coach at Meeker High School. “I would say he had a pretty good day.”
• • • • •
Frances Green, the longtime dance instructor in Rangely, moved to northwest Colorado with her family in 1949, when the oil boom was in full swing.
Rangely was a booming oil camp at the time. It officially became a town soon after World War II, in 1947.
“My dad was an accountant with Equity Oil (which merged with Whiting Petroleum in 2004),” said Green, whose family moved here from Florida. “We lived an hour from the beach. So this was a shock. Rangely was like a melting pot. There were like 14 different oil companies here, and they all had camps. It was the wild west, I tell you. We had tin bars and tin churches. There were no paved streets. People lived in tents. But it was booming.”
Rangely became home for Green.
“It grows on you,” she said. “It’s a comfortable place to live. It’s quiet and it’s friendly.”
• • • • •
Steve Wix of Meeker forwarded this letter to me last week, which, apparently, first appeared in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times in response to the question: “How would you fix the economy?” and has been making the rounds on the Internet ever since:
“Dear Mr. President,
Please find below my suggestion for fixing America’s economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the ‘Patriotic Retirement Plan:’
There are about 40 million people over 50 in the workforce. Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:
1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings — Unemployment fixed.
2) They MUST buy a new American car. Forty million cars ordered — Auto industry fixed.
3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage — Housing crisis fixed.
It can’t get any easier than that!
P.S. If more money is needed, have all members in Congress pay their taxes.
Mr. President, while you’re at it, make Congress retire on Social Security and Medicare. I’ll bet both programs would be fixed pronto!”
Maybe this plan sounds appealing to me since I would be one of the 40 million people over the age of 50 who would receive $1 million.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.