Rangely’s Huitt unopposed; four vie for town board seats

RANGELY I On April 1, Rangely residents will elect three of four candidates running for seats on the Rangely Town Council.
Incumbent Lisa Hatch will run for her second four-year term, with candidates Ann Brady, Andy Shaffer and Dave Way running for her seat and two others vacated by trustees Elaine Urie and Clayton Gohr, both of whom are term limited. Current council members Brad Casto, Dan Eddy and Joe Neilsen have two years remaining in their terms.
The four town council candidates, along with current Rangely Mayor Frank Huitt, who is running for a second two-year term unchallenged, will be the names on the ballot unless write-in candidates register or current candidates withdraw by Friday.
Huitt, the former owner of KR Fishing Services and a town council member before being elected mayor in 2012, said he is running again because he believes town employees, under the direction of Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius, are providing necessary services while keeping costs down.
“One of the things I feel is so important is that government be run like a business,” Huitt said. “Our goal should be to provide as good service as possible to our customers; in government, those are the residents. We’re doing that without adding a lot of cost to the services we provide.”
Huitt said that in the next two years, the board will focus on creative ways to build more affordable housing in the community and “work as economically as we can with our tax dollars,” even as he believes the town will continue to face fiscal challenges, among them unfunded state mandates.
Hatch, who has lived in Rangely for 13 years, has experience in health care and management and 20 years’ service in the Army, where she retired as a major. She currently serves on several boards, among them Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC), the 911 board and the Rio Blanco County Economic Development Advisory Committee.
“From the beginning, I’ve been interested in doing economic development for Rangely where, when oil and gas is either in boom or bust, we can find something that would fill that gap,” she said. “With the county starting an economic development program, I see momentum going that way, and I’d like to work with that while it’s primed to be successful.”
Hatch said if she is re-elected, her role would be to continue addressing local issues like providing workforce housing and promoting new and existing businesses in the area. She said the council is also among the voices that speak out on regional concerns, among them keeping severance tax dollars in the communities that generate them and water rights issues coming to the forefront this year.
Hatch believes a council member’s responsibilities include listening to residents and responding to their concerns fairly.
“I do talk to people and ask how they feel things are going,” Hatch said. “That’s partly why I’m looking at economic development. People I’ve talked to express concerns about the community getting smaller and smaller… I think the other thing is that people want someone who isn’t going to be afraid to speak up and who will do everything with absolute truth and honor.”
Ann Brady, a Rangely resident since 1979, has held various positions on local and regional boards, most recently as a Rangely Junior College District Board of Trustee member and, in the last decade, as a town council member and Rangely’s mayor. She and her husband, Rick, own the Rangely Liquor Store.
Brady said that, if elected, she hopes to play a part in rejuvenating and growing business in Rangely.
“As you see (various local businesses) close down, I’m concerned with the direction the community is going,” Brady said. “We used to be really vibrant, with a lot of stuff going on. But right now you’ve got Chevron cutting back and Encana cutting back… I would just like to see if I could help in bettering our community.”
Brady said that while dwindling federal and state support for oil, gas and coal-based energy development factors into Rangely’s economic picture, the town has tools to help stimulate business growth, from offering incentives for start-ups to investing in business owners who have invested in the community.
Brady believes the town council and chamber are essential to people recognizing what’s available to do in Rangely—from college offerings to outdoor opportunities and family activities—and marketing those resources to others.
“We are a fantastic community for our size,” Brady said. “Because of our special districts, the things that we have—a lot of towns don’t have those. We have so many wonderful opportunities here and so many things to do and see and participate in. It’s getting people to realize what we have and what we have to offer.”
For a town council to operate effectively, she added, it needs to understand its purpose and carry it out as a whole unit.
“When it comes right down to it, the council is policy and procedure,” Brady said. “It’s not day-to-day operations, it’s not one council member wanting something done. You operate as a board, and the board functions as a whole. It doesn’t function in pieces.”
Andy Shaffer, a Rangely resident since coming to Colorado Northwestern Community College as an aviation technology student in 1990, has been a system operator for Summit Midstream Partners for 15 years.
He said he’s running for the council to add to the number of those willing to do this kind of public service.
“It seems like … there’s just a handful of people in town who are on local boards,” Shaffer said. “It just feels like it’s time for some other people to start stepping up to these positions.”
Shaffer has been a firefighter for the Rangely Rural Fire Protection District for 21 years, 11 of those as assistant chief and the last four as the department’s chief.
Shaffer said that, if elected, he hopes to keep the town going in what he believes are positive directions and to speak up for what residents want.
“It happens all the time where people who get on these boards have a political agenda, but that’s not my deal at all,” Shaffer said. “I would like to be a voice for the citizens of Rangely.”
He believes his time working with an elected board in an elected position may prove instructive if he wins a council seat.
“Working with an elected board, actually working underneath them, I’m able to…justify everything that goes on day-to-day with them,” Shaffer said. “And then, as the in-between guy working with the board and with the firefighters as a group, it’s about translating our wants and needs at the department to our leadership, making sure they know what’s going on.”
Candidate Dave Way, a hydro-electric operator with the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District for seven years, has lived in Rangely for the last decade.
Way has been vice president of the Northern Nevada Trout Unlimited group and worked on the Delta County Tourism Board. He ran for the Rangely Town Council four years ago, narrowly missing a seat won by council member Joe Neilsen by a margin of a few votes.
“I got approached by a lot of people who asked if I was going to run again,” Way said. “Until Feb. 27, I wasn’t going to do it. Then I got approached again and I thought, ‘OK, I guess I will.’…We’re losing some really good people in Elaine (Urie) and Mr. (Clayton) Gohr. They’ve kept everything going in a good direction, and I want to follow up in their footsteps.”
Way said that if he is elected he would like to focus particularly on the town’s economic growth and development.
“I still see a problem in the growth of the town,” Way said. “Everybody is always talking about increasing our economic strength, getting people to come to Rangely, but nothing ever really gets done.
Rangely hasn’t grown for I don’t know how many decades… We have the pipelines and the oil industry, but there’s a lot of transient people in town. They’re here for three or four months and they’re gone. If we want to keep people here, we need to have something for those people to do as far as jobs and industries that are more stable.”
Way said he would also like to see housing needs addressed and attract businesses that would provide competition to drive the local economy.
His role as a board member, he added, would be to stay focused on what residents want and to let the town manager and employees do their jobs.
“I will always be interested in opinions and what people think needs to happen,” Way said. “That’s why we’re here — to get input from the town of Rangely. But I am not going to be controlled by people’s personal agendas. I want to make sure everybody in the town who’s paying taxes is treated the same.”