Lots of interest in two local political races in primary

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Judging by the number of political signs posted around the county, there’s a lot of interest in the two contested local races in the Republican primary.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Joe Collins, who will retire his seat on the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners in January.
Three candidates are challenging for Collins’ seat on the commission, while three candidates are vying to become county coroner.
County Treasurer Karen Arnold, who is secretary/treasurer of the county Republican Party, said the competitive races are a good thing for voters.
“Davey (Smith, county Republican chairman) always had the theory that we want as many people as we can on the ballot, whichever side it is, that way the people choose. It’s not the county assembly. It’s not the caucuses,” Arnold said. “He likes to get as many people on the ballot at the county assembly. We were surprised the way the results came in, but there’s nothing we could do about that. He was pleased to see the others get on there. They still had options. The county assembly and the caucuses are just part of the process. The end product should be what the people want.”
Three candidates — Wendy Gutierrez for commissioner and Sherri Halandras and Dr. Albert Krueger for coroner — received enough ballots at the county assembly to have their names automatically placed on the primary ballot. The other three candidates on the ballot — Shawn Bolton and Pat Hughes, who are running for county commissioner, and Nancy Richardson, a candidate for county coroner — petitioned to have their names added.
The top vote-getters in the Aug. 10 primary will, for all practical purposes, be the winners, with no Democrats running for either position.
“They would be that party’s nomination for the general election,” said County Clerk Nancy Amick. “But that doesn’t mean it’s over. A write-in could still file for the general election, either a Democrat or a Republican. Aug. 24 is the last day to file as a write-in. So, technically, it’s not over (after the primary) because of the possibility of a write-in candidate. But realistically, it’s likely over. In my memory in the county, write-in candidates have not garnered a lot of votes. But it’s not to say the potential isn’t there.”
Forrest Nelson, who lost a bid for re-election to the County Commission in the August 2008 primary election to challenger Kai Turner, said he’s glad to see more participation in local elections.
“I think it’s good,” Nelson said. “I think it’s good to have a choice. I don’t remember three running (for County Commission) at any one time, but there probably has been. I just can’t remember it. I’ve never seen so many signs. They’ve got ’em all over town.”
Nelson, who returned to ranching after leaving the commission, doesn’t miss politics. He served two four-year terms on the County Commission.
“I served my time,” he said. “Once you get out, you find out how much pressure is really there. I’m really enjoying (being out of politics). There are some things you miss, a lot of the people and so on, but overall, I was ready for slowing down a little. But things don’t really slow down. It just takes me more time.”
As far as his former fellow commissioner Collins, who has served 16 years on the commission, Nelson said he admired his friend’s longevity.
“He lasted longer than I did,” Nelson said. “He’s tougher than I am. I’m to the point I do my votin’, but other than that, they can handle it.”
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Speaking of the coroner’s position, Ran Cochran, who currently holds the job, has submitted his resignation and is planning a move to Wasilla, Alaska.
Ran will “float” between Valley Funeral Home in Wasilla and Palmer and Anchorage Funeral Home in Anchorage.
He and daughter Sydney will move Aug. 4.
All the best, Ran and Sydney, on your new adventure. We’ll miss you.
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As far as a replacement for the county coroner’s position, Kent Borchard, attorney for the county said Tuesday, “My understanding is that Ran had not included an effective date for his resignation and that he is going to give us a letter making the effective date Aug. 11. That works well as far as the commissioners are concerned, because, and I can’t speak for them, but more than likely they will probably appoint whoever wins the primary to fill the office until they take office in January.”
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Doug Pfau, former Meeker School District superintendent, who recently had his contract terminated by the school board after one year, is still job hunting. He had interviewed for the principal’s position at Rangely Junior/Senior High.
“No news,” Pfau said over the weekend. “I haven’t heard that I don’t have it, but I haven’t heard that I do. I have a few other applications out there. But the rest of them, there are no other administrative applications. The rest are teaching positions.”
Pfau said his wife, Meg, will return to Grand Valley High School in Parachute, where she had been a teacher before coming to Meeker.
“She was really happy down there, and so was (daughter) Cody. At least those two will go back to Grand Valley. Meg will teach math. Me and the (two) boys will stay here for now and see what happens. If nothing (opens up), they’ll go to Grand Valley. They already know a lot of the kids there,” Pfau said.
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Bruce Clatterbaugh, president of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, had this to say about the transition in the director’s position from Ellen Nieslanik to her sister Mary Cunningham.
“Ellen, she has truly done an outstanding job,” Clatterbaugh said.. “You look at the history of the sheepdogs, Gus (Halandras) took the thing and got it started, and he was the face of the sheepdogs. Ellen had to step into that position. She became the face of the sheepdogs almost immediately. Her biggest legacy has been to elevate the trial itself to a much higher plateau. That stems from the fact she understands trials. She really cemented our place as the premier trial in the United States.”
Clatterbaugh said Cunningham, who will become the third director in the Meeker Classic’s history, will keep the event’s momentum going.
“That transition we’re really excited about,” Clatterbaugh said. “We had three applicants we interviewed. We were extremely pleased with the quality of all three. Mary with her experience … gave her the leading edge. She just has the same spirit, the same passion we’ve had with Ellen. From the committee’s standpoint, we’re thrilled. We don’t expect any hitches.”
As far as her future, Nieslanik, who will stay on through the trials in September and then join the board, said, “My plans are still undetermined after the Meeker Classic. I’d love to use my experience to work two to three days a week in the community, but not sure where this road will take me now. Life unfolds as it is supposed to — I’m a firm believer in that.”
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Blake Smith of Rangely is home from the hospital after being injured in an ATV accident.
“Blake has a Rhino and he and his brother-in-law went up Chase Draw on July 3,” said Blake’s mom Cheri. “Charlie was driving and they were on a flat location and had just started to spin a doughnut. They only got about one-third of the way around and the Rhino tipped over. Blake instinctively put out his arm and ended up dislocating his elbow, with the bone sticking out through the skin, and broke his ulna bone in two places. Charlie was able to lift the Rhino off of Blake’s arm and the doctor said that helped save the arm. He was airlifted to Grand Junction and had surgery that night and again on July 6. He spent six days in the hospital and we were all relieved to get home.
“So, out of four limbs, Blake has one that is functional. We were able to rent him an electric wheelchair and that has helped his morale a lot. He can’t put any weight or use his right arm for at least four months and the doctor said it will take about a year to know how much motion and use he will have of that arm. Blake is a strong, determined guy, though, and I believe he will be fine,” said his mom, Cheri.
Cards can be sent to Blake at 174 County Road 46, Rangely, CO 81648.
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On Aug. 2, Ken Buck will be in Meeker at the invitation of the Meeker Tea Party. There will be a potluck barbecue at City Park, starting at 6 p.m., with Buck, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate against Jane Norton in the Republican primary, scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. Burgers and dogs will be provided by the Tea Party. All are welcome “with or without something for the pot,” said Rob Baughman, spokesman for the Meeker Tea Party.
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The Rangely Tea Party is canceling its meetings for the summer and will resume again in September.
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Denise Wade, marketing coordinator for Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, was pleased with the school’s sponsorship of Country Jam, a summer outdoor concert in Fruita.
“My opinion is that it was great exposure. It really got our name out there in an ideal contemporary venue,” Denise said. “I think Rock Jam will do the same.”
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Cedar Ridges Golf Course in Rangely had a tournament on the Fourth, to go along with the other holiday activities.
Top finishers were: First gross Pat Hughes, Matt Fellows, Andy Coryell and Pat Coryell; first net was Trey Robie, Candra Wilson, Tyler Dahl and Jessica Goodrich.
Upcoming tournaments include a 27-hole, two-man best ball on July 24 and the Couples Classic on Aug. 7 and 8.
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At Meeker Golf Course, the Xcel Energy Hawaiian luau golf tournament — an 18-hole, four-person scramble — will be July 24.
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More than 200 people — 206, to be exact — showed up for the opening weekend of the farmers’ market in Meeker. This is the second year for the market, held on Fifth Street, between the old elementary school and the county courthouse.
“This spring was strange, so the plants are producing later and some of the produce was not yet ready from our local suppliers,” said Katie Day, one of the market’s organizers. “This week we should have a couple more vendors … Bob’s Garden and The Bistro.”
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The flamingos that “showed up” at the new waterfall park on the east entrance of Rangely continue to generate interest.
“They are moving in by the hundreds. We have no idea where they are migrating from, but they have ‘made in Mexico’ stamped on them. As soon as the water was turned on — they began moving in,” said Teri Striegel, whose father is behind the park project. “I think we are going to have to put up a ‘No Vacancy’ sign. We’ll be planting the waterfall, so they may have to be transplanted. So lookout — maybe they will move to Meeker!”
So far, there are no sightings yet of flamingos on the east side of the county.
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Kari Jo Stevens, Meeker dance instructor, will take a group of dancers to San Diego in December to perform at halftime of the Holiday Bowl.
“This winter, I sent off some video footage of my kids dancing and after taking a look at the footage, the Bowl Game of America Performances Group has asked my older dancers to travel to San Diego to perform at the Holiday Bowl,” Stevens said.
“We will leave on Dec. 26 and return Dec. 31. While we are there, the dancers will practice their half-time show routine, attend a dance convention with some of the top dance choreographers in the nation, enjoy a party at Sea World, perform at the nation’s largest Big Bay Balloon Parade — nationally televised by the USA Network — and dance in front of 60,000 football fans during the halftime show of the Holiday Bowl.
“We are sending 14 dancers, and will have to raise around $1,200 each to be able to get there. But this is a huge opportunity for the kids to earn high school academic credit and take dance classes from top teachers.”
To make a donation to help send the dancers to San Diego, send checks to Meeker Holiday Bowl Performers, c/o Kari Stevens, at P.O. Box 812 Meeker, CO.
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Hmm, San Diego in December. I’m thinkin’ the newspaper needs to send someone to cover that event.

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