Palisade trustees youngest to serve in decades
When Roger Granat was elected for the first time to the Palisade Town Board at the age of 42, Amanda Rich was starting kindergarten in Florida. Cody Butters was playing in the ditch at her father’s Palisade home and letting her grandfather push her around in a wheelbarrow.
That was in 1984. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Granat, re-elected earlier this month without opposition, now finds himself flanked on the dais by newly minted trustees Rich and Butters.
At 33 and 30, respectively, Rich and Butters are the youngest people to win office in Palisade in several decades, and perhaps longer. The two friends were the top vote-getters among the eight people who ran for the board. Half of the candidates were on the south side of 40.
The election of the two women infuses with youth a predominantly salt-and-pepper Town Board, providing constituents a mixture of seasoned leaders who boast plenty of life experience and first-time office holders who are passionate about Palisade and want to be at the center of what happens there.
“I think there’s a large population in our age range who live in Palisade and who haven’t been represented,” Rich said. “I think it was important for Cody and I to do this.”
Butters said she thinks the voters’ selection is indicative of a larger-scale transition the town is experiencing.
“A lot of cool things are happening in Palisade. Palisade is on the map for a lot of things besides our awesome produce,” she said.
“I think our ability to be open to change is a little bit better as younger people. I’m from there and, I think, have the ability to hang onto what we were or are and what we’re going to become. Older folks tend to get stuck in their ways, and that’s OK. But I think we’ll have a nice balance with a younger generation of women on the board.”
Granat, who said he’s been told he was the youngest mayor at the time when he was elected in 1993 at the age of 51, said he’s excited to serve with Rich and Butters.
“I am just tickled to death that we have younger people that are interested because so often in today’s world, politics is not one of the things the younger set kind of gravitates to,” he said. ” I really am looking forward to what the younger people can bring to the board.”
The mayor suspects the Dollar General controversy may have sparked residents half his age to get involved in town government. The national discount retailer had planned to build a store downtown but backed off last year after a group of citizens protested.
Whatever the reason, Granat is interested to see what Rich and Butters will bring to the table.
“I don’t think they had a hidden agenda. They truly wanted to become part of the community and help Palisade grow. I think they may have some ideas on growth they feel have not been tapped, and they would like to bring those to the board,” he said.
Butters, a district manager for AC Golden Brewing Co., was born and raised in Palisade. She graduated from Palisade High School in 1999 and attended Mesa State College for two years. She then moved out of the valley and bounced around for the next decade, living in Fort Collins, Vail, Italy and the valley again. She graduated from Mesa State in 2007 with a degree in business administration and bought a house in Palisade two years ago.
Rich, a middle school psychologist, has spent much of her life on the Western Slope. She split her childhood between Glenwood Springs and Florida, then returned to Colorado to obtain a psychology degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango. She worked for four years in the ski industry so she could live and ski in Telluride, then moved on to graduate school at the University of Colorado at Denver. In between, she spent a summer in Palisade working at two wineries. After obtaining an educational-specialist graduate degree, she took a job in School District 51 two years ago.
Both women said they had been thinking about running for the board for some time and were encouraged to do so by one another as well as current and former trustees and members of the business community.
“I felt like I had good credentials to be chosen for this position,” Rich said. “I was definitely excited and honored (to be elected). It’s the true voice of the people who care about who represents them.”