Montrose commish confirms toxic discourse

A Montrose County commissioner Saturday largely confirmed what outgoing County Manager Rick Eckert alleged in sweeping fashion in a resignation letter earlier in the week — that the political climate in the Montrose area is poisonous, widespread, endemic and bad for business.

“That appears to be the case. Other counties have different kinds of problems, but it’s always an ongoing situation (here) it seems,” said Montrose County Commissioner Ron Henderson, a day after Eckert’s resignation letter was made public. “Here it seems to be more deeply ingrained,” said Henderson, a lifelong Montrose-area resident.

Eckert had been on the job less than a year, and cited a constantly rancorous climate among elected officials and the public at large as the primary driver to him quitting the county’s top administrative position.

“The constant, non-stop contention, with no end in sight, is not physically sustainable,” Eckert wrote. His resignation becomes effective May 16.

Henderson — who himself has suffered a number of heart-related ailments in the past year — said that it was clear the stress of the job “was working on Rick physically and emotionally.”

“It was building up. We were aware of it, because he was concerned,” Henderson said.

Aside from the physical toll, Eckert in his letter expressed real worry that Montrose County’s reputation for acrimony was hurting the primary strategic goal of the county — attracting new businesses to town and boosting economic development.

Henderson said he shared the same concerns. “We need to come together as a community and show our better sides, rather than all of this infighting,” he said.

Another charge Eckert made on his way out was that the endemic problem of incivility in Montrose is the worst of any community in the state, something that’s a bit of an open secret in state government circles.

When asked if he’s heard that from his fellow commissioner colleagues around the state, Henderson said, quite succinctly, “Yes.” Some colleagues have told him that they’re “really glad that they’re not commissioners in Montrose County,” Henderson said.

Eckert’s salary is $112,000 a year, but a severance or exit package had not been negotiated with him as of Friday. Henderson said the details of the county’s plan for splitting with Eckert will be made public Monday.


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