From My Window: Race for RBC commisioner may be interesting this year

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
The county political climate is rapidly heating up as the announcement comes that former Rio Blanco County Sheriff Si Woodruff is going after—er—challenging Jeff Eskelson for his seat on the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners.
This news brings mixed feelings to me and to several other folks I have spoken with in the past week, including at the Meeker Education Foundation benefit dinner on Sunday evening.

The feeling I have gotten has been almost unanimous with the spoken word of those I have spoken with. The folks like the heck out of Si Woodruff but aren’t sure they want him as their commissioner.
I would reiterate what many of them said and back it up with a lot of years of my own experience in dealing with county commissioners/ supervisors and county sheriffs.
The mindset, the temperament, the openness, the ease with the press, the importance of timeliness and the understanding that the public really DOES have a right to know are usually quite a bit different between law enforcement and a county commissioner.
There are so many facets of being a county commissioner that don’t ever surface with the sheriff’s office—land issues, zoning issues, planning issues, road, bridge and highway maintenance, grants, building issues, personnel issues, voting issues, livestock issues, streamflow, irrigation, wild horses, sage grouse, paying bills, budgeting for the entire county, where to put a new reservoir (now pending), snow removal and the list goes on and on.
It is true that a sheriff is an administrator, so some paperwork is not an unfamiliar task. But the differences in equipment, costs, personnel training, in-office practices, political correctness, tolerance, the ability to listen to people and to speak back in a civil and understanding way can be quite different.
Meanwhile, law enforcement training and practice is more of a military structure where “this is the way it is” and “don’t argue with me” don’t work with a people-heavy job like the commissioners.
A huge difference also lies in the perception of “public information.” Basically put, the public does have a right to know just about everything except real estate negotiations, personnel issues and litigation that the county is involved in.
Expenditures, minutes of meetings, mileage, meals purchased, etc., are all open records in a much more public way with a commissioner than with a sheriff. Shouldn’t be, but it is.
I’m not going to make a recommendation now as to which candidate would make the best county commissioner—and there are several reasons why.
Both candidates have about a month to impress with their openness, desire to fill the job, etc., and it just might be interesting.
But I would urge the public to look at both men—who have been in the public in very different ways—for quite a while. Take a look at which one of these gents is the man you want to deal with as a county commissioner.
Both men are quite intelligent. Both men have done quite a bit for the residents of Rio Blanco County. Both men, I believe, have their own agendas.
This is a county race, folks, that will have far-reaching and long-standing consequences. Make sure you measure the facts carefully.

The Meeker Education Foundation enjoyed great success on Sunday evening with its second annual fundraiser banquet at the Fairfield Center.
Last year’s inaugural event was, well, an inaugural event.
The turnout was OK, but nothing to write home about. Some money was made because most of the goods were donated; and a good meal was had because it was cooked by Elk Mountain executive chef and Meeker Town Trustee Scott Creecy, who also prepared the great meal this year.
Sunday night’s event saw at least twice if not three times the attendance as last year’s event, and those in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the all-too-brief performances by the Meeker Elementary School Marimba Band, directed by Shana Holliday, and the Meeker High School Choir, directed by district music director Jeff Hemingson.
Both groups brought fresh, quality entertainment to the event, but perhaps they exited too quickly.
The food was good, the entertainment was good, the auction went smoothly if maybe not a little slowly, and those in attendance seemed to have a good time—leading, perhaps, to what will be a packed house this next year and in years to come.
The benefit raises funds for all three schools in the district and the money pays for incidental items that the regular budget cannot or doesn’t pay for.
It seemed that perhaps more teachers and staff from the schools have bought into the reality that the MEF does indeed do good for the schools because there were many more district employees helping at the event on Sunday, which is not usually a night that folks like to go out socializing.
The Meeker Education Foundation should be lauded.
It has set its sights on supplementing the funding for incidentals and otherwise unfunded goodies and necessities needed by the teachers and the students.
In this day and age, when state funding formulas keep shrinking or at least holding steady while costs go up, the MEF does indeed perform a service that all classrooms and students benefit from.

This week may be the true test of just how well they really do keep the town’s streets clean of snow in Meeker, but two women at the MEF fundraiser on Sunday said I should give a shout-out to Meeker town street crews, which have done an excellent job of keeping the deep snow under control.
Meeker is a small town, but we have had a big-city snow supply so far this winter, and the snows have not fallen at the most convenient times—early morning, late morning, mid-afternoon and late at night. And often, the snow has fallen more than once a day over a weekend.
This week, well in excess of a foot of snow has fallen since Sunday, and, as of today (mid-morning Tuesday), the side streets are a mess with not many more places to put the snow.
I have helped two people get into their driveways and I almost didn’t make it out of mine this morning. But as soon as I got out of the driveway, the streets were negotiable and I would add here that I have a 2006 Chrysler Sebring convertible—not a four-wheel drive like about 99 percent of the vehicles on town streets for the past week.
God knows how much longer this snow is going to keep coming, but I don’t think I am alone in wishing the snow would stop for a while.
But back to the city crews, which have been doing a great job considering it is not a big road maintenance crew in a town of only about 2,500 people.
The crews start early, certainly concentrating on the main streets first, but it isn’t usually long until the streets all around town have at least been plowed and the dirt/gravel have been spread on the streets in town that run up the hill.
So far, so good, city crews. We are quite lucky to have the towns, county and state roads in good hands.

The complaints are already starting to come in—as I suspected they would.
I was impressed, and I think most city folks were fairly impressed, with the look of the new county justice center in downtown Meeker—at least until the work crew took down the fence that blocked the front of the building.
I have since received many phone-in and many in-face complaints about the looks of the front entrance of the new building.
I have already had one group come in and find the quote from county officials stating that the front of the building would utilize the larger local stone on the front of the building so as to keep in style with the rest of the front of the building as well as the county courthouse.
“It looks like hell,” is the quote I keep hearing regarding the red brick on the main portico in front of the justice center.
Besides the county not living up to what it said it would do regarding the stone in the front, there are a lot of people who believe “it looks like hell.” I can be counted among them.
Too bad for the attractive building to have such an obvious eyesore where everyone will see it.