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RBC I After five years as president of Colorado Northwestern Community College and more than two additional decades of service to the State of Colorado, Russell George is retiring—sometime within the next year.
George, who took over the reins of CNCC in 2011 after a long career in public service to the state government, and his wife, Neal, are planning on returning to their long-held home in Rifle, where they will continue to be involved in community service—this time as volunteers.
“I want to target the end of the fiscal year to retire, but I have no real deadline,” George said. “I want to stay until they have my successor in place.
“I have focused everything here as a team and I have tried to include people in my decisions, which I think is very important so everyone has a stake in what we have done,” he said. “If I have done my job, then my departure won’t be noticed much.
“The college is sound financially and sound academically, and that has been my goal all along,” he said. “There have been tough times and challenges, especially with the economy the last couple of years, but we have been able to take care of things at home.
“We can’t let up as the college will never run itself, and I am confident that the college will continue under steady and constant vigilance,” George said.
Prior to his being named president at CNCC, which began in 2011, George was executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation from January 2007 to January 2011, he was executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (almost everything water-related in Colorado), and prior to that, from 2000 to 2004, he was director of the Colorado Department of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife).
Prior to his government appointments by the governors, George represented what was then the 57th House District in the state Legislature from 1993 to 2000, serving his home of Garfield County as well as Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
He was held in such high esteem by his legislative colleagues that he was also elected as speaker of the House for two terms.
“I have a long to-do list when I finally am out of here,” George said. “I don’t have any hobbies because I never had time to develop any hobbies. I have always been a volunteer my entire life, and maybe I will do more of that.
“It is also very important to Neal and me that we stay involved with the Rangely and Craig campuses of CNCC,” he said. “I also want to help advance the Better Cities plan undertaken by the county as well as Rangely and Meeker. I also want to keep involved with the Clean Energy Plan in a way to help the coal, oil and gas industries in the area.”
As to what George wishes he had accomplished before leaving, he said he would like to have seen the college grow faster in technology—educationally and academically.
“We have been able to keep up and we are certainly not behind the curve,” he said. “I just wish we had gotten farther ahead of the curve and been one of the leaders.”
George said he is proud of upgrading the Rangely and Craig campuses.
“I am really happy with the state-of-the-art upgrades with the science and math (Rector and Streigel) buildings,” he said. “I think those turned out tremendous.”
“I would like to have been able to update the residence halls and the food service, but all the improvements take time and money,” he said. “Those things are in the plans as are other projects, but they will happen as the money becomes available; they will just have to be done by someone else.”
Another plus mark of his term as president is the completion of the Craig campus while the future will bring more residence updates and improvements to the student life, George said.
“This will also take place in the not real-distant future, I suspect,” he said. “This college will be here for a long time; it isn’t going anywhere.”
“This past five years has been a special time in my and Neal’s lives, and something we will treasure until the end,” he said. “We’ll both be keeping busy.
“I have looked at the last five years with the hope that the community college life will be an affordable, fulfilling road map for the students to get a good education,” George said. “The community college system is the way for so many students who might not fit directly into the college or university life right after high school, and that has been the key to my experience. It’s all for the kids and their futures.”