The window has gone dark. As you read this today, be assured that it is not just a dream that I am no longer editor at the Rio Blanco Herald Times.
No. I didn’t quit, and no, I didn’t get fired.
Publisher Mitch Bettis and his wife, Meg, have sold the Herald Times to former Meeker residents Niki Turner and her husband, Pat, who are currently in the midst of moving back to Meeker to take over the reins of the publication and to once again run the newspaper with Rio Blanco County ownership.
That ought to rest easy with most of you readers. It is special and rare in this day of everything being corporately owned and run by computer to have the publisher of a small weekly newspaper also living in the hometown of the publication.
As for me, it is time to look for another job—preferably remaining within Rio Blanco County.
I would love to stay here. Over the past three and a half years my wife, Cris, and I have lived here, it has become home.
Colorado is home for me, having been born in Denver and having grown up in Colorado Springs and Boulder. I went to college in Grand Junction and my first newspaper job was in Aspen. We are also relatively close to my wife’s family in Wyoming.
But during my three and a half years in Rio Blanco County, I can’t really think of another place I would rather call home.
I have grown to love Rio Blanco County—both the eastern and western ends—for many different reasons. But the two reasons that stand out are the natural beauty abundant within the county lines and the friendliness that is rampant with this county—although it is manifest in different ways on each of the east and west ends of the county.
I can claim some mighty good friends in each end of the county, and, for that reason, I don’t really care which end of the county I end up in.
First things first, however, and that is to thank Mitch Bettis for the opportunity to escape Arizona and to return home. He is a true friend, a good businessman and, even though he has lived out of Rio Blanco County for many years, it is really obvious that he cares a lot for this county and the readers of this newspaper.
I know Niki Turner will be good for the Herald Times readers because for the past two and a half years I have worked with her and her computer, which puts this newspaper together, I have known a caring, concerned person who was always concerned that we get things right—and she has helped that take place due to her having lived here before.
She actually has about 20 years experience linked to the newspaper—and she does care about the community a lot—having been living in Silt but having visited Meeker quite often.
Daughter Caitlin Walker has also been working at the Herald Times for a while now, selling advertising in the Meeker area, and she has also started covering the Meeker Town Board as a reporter.
Other Herald Times folks I owe a thank you to include Tonya Morris, who got me started when I arrived here and pretty well taught me how to use this computer, which is a Mac, after many years of using a PC.
Debbie Watson and Patti Hoke, who both work the front office, have also been huge helps. Most importantly, they answer the phone and run the classifieds and keep me covered, particularly at the crazy times on Monday and Tuesday, when I am swamped. They also know most of the people in town and where they work or their past history in town and many times these two great women have kept me out of boiling hot water.
They also have great husbands in J.D. “Doc” Watson and Mike Hoke, both of whom I have played golf with. They are both good men, good Meekerites and good friends. I much appreciate them and particularly Doc’s reporting for the newspaper on the police and fire beats.
Bobby Gutierrez has also been a tremendous help in covering the county sports scene; mostly in Meeker but helping on occasion with Rangely. There is always a lot going on, and his assistance has made a huge difference.
Next, the best thing about Rio Blanco County has been the list of good friends made in the past three years on both ends of the county.
First and foremost on the Rangely end of the county has been the chance to get to know and befriend Russell George and his wife Neal, Russell having been the president of Colorado Northwestern Community College since long before I moved here.
Russell has a resume that a normal group of 10 top businessmen would be needed to match. He has served in many posts and as department heads for the state of Colorado including transportation, natural resources, etc., and I was once told that Russell George may know more about water—certainly in Northwest Colorado—than anyone else in the state. I am more than proud to call him and Neal friends.
Two other couples who stand out as good friends I will miss if I have to leave Rio Blanco County are Bud and June Striegel and Frank and Grace Huitt. Both couples have done more than their share to improve life for those in Rangely and even the overall county, and none of those four people have a selfish bone in their bodies. They would be sadly missed.
Others I consider friends but don’t knows perhaps as well are Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius and his wife, Colleen, and one I had an early mess-up with who I don’t claim to know well but have grown to truly respect—is Sam Tolley. Sam, it seems, likes to do things out of the public eye, and the stories I have heard about him make him a great friend to the community of Rangely.
There are three other folks who leave an indelible impression with you when you meet them, and they also play a major role in Rangely being what it is.
Peggy Rector is, well, Peggy Rector. There is no question where Peggy stands on any given issue, but, whether you agree with her or not, Peggy is undoubtedly acting in a manner as to benefit Rangely and CNCC. She is special and there will be no harder a worker to be found for miles around. We have done battle on a number of issues, but I like her and I respect her.
The last two I will mention I don’t know very well but have been able to see with my own eyes that these gentlemen also have Rangelys’s best interests at heart. John (and Sandy) Payne, the owners of Giovanni’s, and Bill Hume, the owner of Nichols Store, who was the first person I met in Rangely, seem to be always on hand when a hand is needed in one of many ways. It is people like these two men that every town needs, and Rangely has, and, I am sure, will continue to be able to count on for a while to come.
One other friend I have made is Matt Scoggins. Matt is busy as the full-time school superintendent for Rangely’s schools, yet he has countless times come up with photos to fill the sports and other pages with images of students from all of his schools. Both he and his wife, Beth, a coach at the high school, have been a great help, and I will miss seeing and dealing with Matt, who I speak with almost weekly.
Meeker also has more than its share of great people and those I proudly call friends, starting with two of the first people I met when I moved here on March 8, 2013.
Gus and Christine Halandras have been friends since the day I met them. When we were discussing food and I found out they were Greek—which is probably my favorite type of cuisine along with Thai—there was an immediate affinity. When I found out that Christine really knows her way around Greek food and the boys did a heck of a job cooking a whole lamb for Easter in 2014, the love affair was fixed in concrete.
The entire family has been more than cordial and makes up just a great family. That is a family I will never forget. Not only have they been great individuals but I don’t know another family around that is more community conscious. Not only that, Regas has been a pretty good mayor in my mind.
There are many other individuals in this end of the county that I have come to know, call friends and have come to respect.
I will miss a lot of folks if I have to leave the area, which is something I hope I don’t have to do.
I am not going to try to mention all the friends I gained in Meeker, but there are a couple I have to mention for various reasons. Leading the list is Ed Coryell; he has been a saint to work with at the fair. Then there are Scott Meszaros, Si Woodruff, Mike Joos, Anthony Mazzola, Steve and Avis Loshbaugh, Richard and Cindy Welle, Jill and Dale Dunbar, Scott Creecy, Bill deVergie, Wendy Gutierrez, Kim and Bill Ekstrom, Arturo Rodriguez and his wife, Tanya, and the crew at Mexican House and the Meeker Cafe, Mike and Diana Jones, Trina Smith, Leah Bohlander, Dr. Albert and Mary K. Krueger, Jewell and Klark (and Madison) Kindler, Kathy and Macy and “DC” Collins, the entire Shults clan, Dr. Charles Vandiver and his crew, Margie and Leif Joy (yeah, Tigerblood), Chris Strate, Matt Holliday, Dave Morlan, Dave and Martha Cole, Rocky and Sparky Pappas, Elaine and Bill Jordan, Gerald and Twyla Morris, Alan and Karolyn Michalewicz, Reed and Kathleen Kelley, Amy and Dan Chinn, Chris Selle, Mandy Etheridge, Ken Harman, Hal Pearce, Hallie and Molly and the whole Turner clan, George Smith, the Brennan family, Trina Zagar-Brown, Boots Campbell, Sue Wilson, the Rev. Scott Hollenbeck, Diane Dunham, Tom and Joy Allen and Mark Rogers as well as many other members of the Meeker Lions Club.
Forgive me because I know I left off names of people I consider friends or who have impressed me that they are true friends of one or the other towns in Rio Blanco County.
I really do wish to stay in Rio Blanco County and if anyone can think of some useful reason to keep me around, I would be listening to all offers.
I can write and edit just about anything, I have been a business manager, a publisher of a daily newspaper, have several years as a public information officer at an Arizona college (hint, hint, Mr. Granger) and would make a good curator (hint, hint, Bud), a good public relations specialist and I have sold retail. Overall, I am actually pretty good with the public.
If you have any ideas, give me a call on my cell phone at 970-942-8288. I am a quick learner and pretty adaptable. And I really would like to remain in Rio Blanco County.
God bless you all, Rio Blanco County. Stay on the road that is just now being laid in Rio Blanco County, keep an open mind for the future, and oil, gas and coal won’t be only things making Rio Blanco County what it could be.
And best of luck to the Turners in their new endeavors. Rio Blanco County will be better off…