SEC inspector tight-lipped on money matters

If Jon Hertzke has opinions about Wall Street corruption, executive bonuses and the economic collapse, he’s keeping them to himself.
“I can’t comment on anything like that,” said Hertzke, a 1988 graduate of Meeker High School.
Hertzke is an investigator for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, whose purpose, according to its Web site, “is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.”
“I do inspections and examinations of registered entities, focusing on stock exchanges and securities exchanges,” he said.
Hertzke is a branch chief for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., but he downplays his role.
“It’s not anything as fancy as a father would like,” Hertzke said humbly, referring to his father, Jon, who lives in Meeker. “It sounds way more impressive than it is.”
His father, however, is understandably proud.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said of his son’s recent trip to Kiev, Ukraine. “They sent him over there to help them get started in setting a program up, similar to what he does.”
There was one cultural peculiarity, however, Hertzke’s father said.
“They drink a lot of vodka there, and he said every time somebody did something they toasted it. He said you’d have to find a potted plant quick.”
With investment scandals dominating the news in recent months, Hertzke is probably a busy guy these days. But, again, he can’t talk about it.
“I can’t comment on work,” he said.
But he can comment on his recent trip to the capital of Ukraine, where he worked with his counterparts in that country.
“I was there for a week,” Hertzke said. “We were sort of loaned out through the office of international affairs, which one of the things it does is provide technical assistance, primarily to emerging securities markets. We were working with their equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
Other than learning simple phrases like good morning or thank you in Russian — “They had a Ukrainian language, but everyone speaks Russian,” Hertzke said — he had to go through a translator when communicating with people in his host country.
“It was interesting, because I had never done that before,” he said. “When giving presentations, everyone (in the audience) had earphones on, and a translator was translating simultaneously. But if we would go out to dinner or someplace, we had a person who would translate for us, which is somewhat more difficult because you had to talk and then wait, talk and wait.”
Hertzke traveled to Ukraine in December. It was the only time he has been to that part of the world.
“It was my first time in eastern Europe,” he said. “It was pretty much a working trip, so I wouldn’t say I experienced Kiev. It’s a very interesting city. It’s a mix of western and eastern bloc cultures. Kiev is not Paris, or London or Rome, but everyone was very friendly, very nice. They are clearly trying to develop their markets.”
Hertzke has been with the Securities and Exchange Commission for about five years. After graduating from Meeker High School, he attended Utah State in Logan. From there, he went to the University of Utah, where received his law degree. He then earned a post law degree from New York University and practiced tax law in the New York area for a time.
Hertzke lives and works near the National Mall in D.C. He recently attended the presidential inauguration.
“I was one of the 1.8 million people there,” he said. “It was crazy cold, and it was crazy crowded, but it was fun. We were like three blocks back, which doesn’t sound like a long way, but it is if you expect to see anything.”
Hertzke enjoys living and working in the nation’s capital.
“It’s a political town, and it (the new administration) will be a big, big change,” he said. “We have a new chairman at the SEC, for example. I like being an observer of (politics), but I don’t want to be directly involved in it, but it’s fun to see it all unfold.”
Even though he has been away from Meeker since his high school days, Hertzke returns to visit his dad, and last summer he reconnected with some of his classmates at the 20-year reunion.
“I try to get back once a year,” said Hertzke, whose mother lives in Utah. “I love being from a small town, and I love living in a big city. It’s not as different as people think it is. I’m glad I grew up in Meeker, and I have that perspective.”
Hertzke was sorry to learn of the loss of one of his classmates, Gene Scritchfield, who was killed in a tractor rollover accident in October.
“That was sad,” Hertzke said, who was notified of the accident through the class’ e-mail distribution list. “He was such a good guy. I hadn’t talked to him in 20 years, until the reunion. He was just Gene; he was just such a good guy.”

If you’re looking for good food and good entertainment, the Rangely and Meeker Chambers of Commerce have upcoming events that offer both. The Meeker Chamber of Commerce will have its annual meeting Feb. 12. Besides the dinner and award presentations, there will be a murder mystery.
Two days later, on Valentine’s Day, the Rangely Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its annual Crab Crack. It’s all-you-can-eat crab legs, plus all of the fixin’s, and entertainment will be provided by vocalist Angie Kenney, formerly Allred, a 2005 graduate of Colorado Northwestern Community College. Kenney is furthering her education — she is attending classes part time — and sings in the CNCC choir.
A limited number of tickets are still available for both events.

After recently taking photographs during a class at the Meeker Recreation Center, I was later informed by Dondi Glasscock, the fitness instructor, that the class is officially called cardio kick. I had referred to it as kick boxing. Sorry, ladies. All I know is, after watching the all-female class in action, any one of them could kick my you-know-what.

ExxonMobil, which is involved in a lawsuit with Rio Blanco County over application of its use tax, reported a U.S. record $45.2 billion profit for 2008. Not bad, especially considering its earnings in the fourth quarter fell 33 percent from the previous year.
“Yep, ExxonMobil had a good year overall, although their profits dropped over 30 percent in the last quarter,” said Rio Blanco County Administrator Pat Hooker. “Let’s just hope ExxonMobil continues to invest in Rio Blanco County with those profits. Maybe our local economy won’t take quite the hit as the rest of the state and nation. One thing about it, if the oil and gas companies don’t make money, they won’t be investing in our county, so I’m pulling for them to be profitable.”
Still no word on whether the Colorado Supreme Court will hear Rio Blanco County’s request to review a Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of ExxonMobil in the use tax case.
“We haven’t heard anything yet, and we’re thinking that’s a good sign,” said Debbie Morlan, sales and use tax administrator for the county.

Kudos on a job well done to the Rangely High School Honor Society students who collected donations of toys for Christmas and then gave them to the pediatrics department at Rangely District Hospital for children who are patients.
The members of the honor society are: Heather Wanstedt, president; Meagan Piering, vice president; Audrey Hogan, secretary; Eric Sisneros, treasurer; Sheina Fehrens, reporter/historian; and Logan Stewart, member. Donna Petersburg, a retired teacher who serves as faculty sponsor, said there will be an induction of new National Honor Society members Feb. 26.

A neighbor gave me a self-published book to read that was written by an old friend of his, who described his experiences piloting a B-17, called “Dinah Might,” during World War II. The pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. “He was a hero of mine,” my neighbor said.

Speaking of decorated World War II veterans, I have had people ask about Orval LaBorde’s poetry. LaBorde, a well-known WWII veteran, died the Saturday after Christmas. Sandy Shimko at the White River Museum told me there is a notebook with copies of Orval’s poetry at the museum.

Another WWI veteran, Frank Cooley, is recuperating in Durango after going through a series of medical procedures. Cards can be sent to: Frank Cooley, c/o Andrew Cooley, 2906 Cedar Ave., Durango, CO 81301.

I received a surprise “friend” request on my Facebook page last week. It was from my dad. I guess he wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. Welcome to the Facebook world, dad.

People were out and about last weekend, enjoying the nice weather. I even saw some people wearing shorts. OK, it was nice, but it wasn’t that nice. I do think it was the first time in about two months I didn’t wear long underwear.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.