Women stand out in local political scene

I want to talk about women. Women in politics, that is.
At the national level, women in politics generate a lot of attention, as evidenced by all of the hub-bub surrounding Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate.
It seems to be a different story locally.
Around here, women who hold leadership positions in government have become commonplace.
For example, there are women serving as mayor on both ends of Rio Blanco County — Mandi Etheridge in Meeker and Ann Brady in Rangely.
Not only are women holding key positions in local government, but they are serving with distinction.
Brady was recently elected Colorado Municipal League District 11 president for 2009. Rangely will host the District 11 meeting next September or October. Brady will succeed David Merritt, mayor pro tem of Glenwood Springs. The district president serves a one-year term.
“CML is an organization that supports municipal governments in Colorado,” Brady said.
Another local woman in government — Nancy Amick — has a leadership role at the state level. Amick, county clerk for Rio Blanco County, is president of the Colorado County Clerk’s Association. It is an elected position voted by members of the association, which is made up of 64 county clerks from around the state. Amick has less than three months remaining on her term, which has been a busy one.
“This year has been the most trying time for clerks, in my memory,” Amick said, because of all of the issues on the ballot. “Fortunately, I believe I work with the most dedicated group of elected ‘servants’ in Colorado government. They are a wonderful group, and I am very honored to be their president.”
And the list of local women in leadership positions goes on.
Sharon Day is the administrator for the town of Meeker. Mary Strang is president of the Meeker School Board. Dondi Glasscock is chairwoman of the Pioneers Medical Center Board of Trustees. Renae Neilson is the assessor for Rio Blanco County. The county treasurer is a woman, Karen Arnold. The county budget director is a woman, Diane Sorensen. And any list of local women who are making a difference would be incomplete without Peggy Rector, who is president of the Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation and a former Rio Blanco County commissioner.
I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out, and for that I apologize, but you get the idea. Women in important community roles are making an impact, on both ends of the county.
Oh, yeah, it’s worth mentioning, just to keep the peace: I work in an office of all women.
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With all of the talk about the local school bond elections and what could become of the current Meeker Elementary School, if voters approve construction of a new one, I had someone ask about the former BLM building, west of town. So I posed the question to Dan Evig, school superintendent. Here’s what he had to say:
“The building was given to the district. … We are renting the building right now and will continue to look at what long-range plans for the building might be. I don’t know the history of the building, other than the owner at the time the new one was being built offered the building to the district. We are getting near the third year of our ownership of the building. During most of the first year, the BLM was still in the building. After they moved, we advertised and rented the building.”
Evig said the building is currently being rented to ExxonMobil.
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Here are the dates for next year’s Smoking River Powwow, so mark your calendar. “It looks like the powwow will move to Sept. 25-26 for 2009,” said Lynn Lockwood, one of the event’s organizers. The first-ever Smoking River Powwow was last July 25-26.
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Both candidates for the Senate District 8 seat — Al White and Ken Brenner — have called for an investigation into gas prices in northwest Colorado. I have had people tell me they thought it was about time. Gas prices in northwest Colorado have dropped of late, which was nice to see, but they have consistently been higher than other parts of the state. According to the newspaper in my hometown of Lawrence, Kan., gas prices are as low as $2.65 a gallon.
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Scott Pierson, new director of the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District, recently announced the Fay Action Park, located next to the new Meeker Public Library, would be closed because of complaints about trash and graffiti around the park.
I walk by the skateboard park numerous times every day on my way back and forth from home to the newspaper office, and the trash has been a problem. I don’t understand it, either, because, when the park was open, there were three trash cans available. You’re telling me they couldn’t put their trash in at least one of them? Unfortunately, the kids who utilized the park for the right reasons are punished along with the ones who trashed the place.
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Chris Ham, who is going off the Meeker Board of Trustees, because he and his family are moving to Grand Junction, bemoaned the fact he was never challenged in an election.
Originally, Ham was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the town board. Then, when his position came up for election, no opponent ran against him.
“This isn’t the way the democratic system is supposed to work,” Ham said in his farewell comments at last week’s town meeting. “In my time here I have not been voted on by the public once. That’s disappointing to me.”
The lack of participation in local politics isn’t unique to Meeker.
In August, the town council in Rangely voted to place a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would repeal term limits for town elected officials. Council members justified the move because of so few participants in the previous election.
Maybe what we need is for more women to get involved.

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

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