Listen to this post
RBC — Forrest Nelson’s days as an elected official are numbered.
But it has been a good run, and he’s ready to focus more on operating the family ranch and spending time with his grandchildren.
Nelson lost his re-election bid in August to Kai Turner during the Republican primary. So, after eight years on the Rio Blanco County Commission, he is down to the final two meetings of his second term.
“Overall, it has been rewarding,” said Nelson, who is serving as chairman of the board of county commissioners. “It’s been challenging. I have enjoyed being able to help the county during a pretty critical time, when a lot of things are happening.”
He’s enjoyed some parts of being a county commissioner more than others.
“I’m the county’s member on the Colorado Water Conserv-ation Board,” Nelson said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that, and I think water is so important to our future. Water is just so critical.”
Nelson also enjoyed the cooperative spirit that existed with commissioners from other northwest Colorado counties.
“We’ve always worked well with other county commissioners,” Nelson said. “That’s the only way small numbers can get anything done. We’ve got a pretty good coalition of commissioners, just working with each other in this area. I’ve enjoyed that part of it and made lot of good friends that way.”
But he won’t miss all of the meetings and the time away from home. As a county commissioner, Nelson has received his share of criticism as well. He said it goes with the territory.
“Nobody knows for sure (if a particular course of action is right or not),” Nelson said. “We do our best to get it right, but at least half of the people will think you did it wrong. A lot of things, you don’t know for sure. The main thing is to try to keep the interest of the taxpayers foremost. Most people understand, outside of a few who continually complain.”
Somebody will always be upset, Nelson said, regardless of which way the commission votes on a given issue.
“The issues that are important to somebody … other issues are just as important to other people,” Nelson said. “Your neck’s on the line all of the time. Whether they think you are doing it or not, they will tell you about it.”
Trying to gather as many facts as possible is crucial to the decision-making process, Nelson said.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is you want to get all of the information you can before you make a decision,” Nelson said. “That’s the key to making good decisions.”
County Administrator Pat Hooker said he benefitted from Nelson’s experience.
“In my time as county administrator, Forrest has been very helpful to me in understanding the workings of county government,” Hooker said. “His knowledge and experience in both county government and community matters will be missed. We all wish Forrest the very best in his future endeavors.”
Nelson was no newcomer to the political scene when he joined the commission. His previous experience included stints on the White River Electric Association and Meeker School boards. He also served on the Farm Credit Services board, fair board and the Rio Blanco County Planning Commission.
“I had a pretty good idea what happened in the county before I ran,” Nelson said. “I always thought I would like to do it. It’s a way to give back to your communities. It’s certainly a good thing.”
In addition, Nelson served as president of the American Paint Horse Association in 2003.
From the San Luis Valley area originally, Nelson was 14 when his family moved to Meeker.
“I’ve been here 50 some years,” he said. “So I’ve been here most of my life.”
Nelson will celebrate his 67th birthday in January.
“I can remember when somebody my age was an old codger,” he said. “But things change.”
Nelson majored in animal science at Colorado State University. After college, he returned to Rio Blanco County. He has been ranching ever since. His father also was a rancher.
“We have a lot of generations of ranchers involved,” Nelson said.
Nelson married into a ranching family. He went into partnership with his wife’s family on the White River Ranch. His wife, Connie, has been supportive of his pursuits outside of ranching.
“Whatever I have done, she has been fine with,” he said.
Serving as a county commissioner is a bigger time commitment than people realize, Nelson said.
“A lot of people think you just go down there for a meeting a couple of times a month,” Nelson said. “But a lot of times there are meetings at night, or you’re talking on the phone. You may not be in your office, but you’re out there doing something for the county.”
Nelson lost by all of 11 votes in the primary election. The loss stung, particularly at first. But he said it was time to move on.
“You feel a little disappointed,” Nelson said of the outcome of the primary election. “Nobody wants to lose. At the same time, I had probably been in there long enough, and it will be a lot easier on me not being in there. We’re at the point, we need to take a trip or two.”
The Nelsons have four grandchildren: a granddaughter in Meeker and three grandsons in California. They hope to see them more often, now that Forrest will no longer be spending time on county business.
With only two meetings remaining before he goes off the commission, Nelson reflected on his time as a public servant.
“It’s a hard job, but I think most people understand you are doing it in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Nelson said. “We all want the county to be as good as possible for all of us, for our kids, for our grandchildren.”