Parachute mayor quits, cites drilling slowdown
For more than a year, Parachute Mayor Roy McClung watched the exodus of workers that followed the sharp reduction in natural gas development in western Garfield County.
Now McClung is packing his bags himself, yet another casualty of the slowdown in the energy sector.
McClung plans to step down as mayor at the end of the year so he and his wife, Carol, can leave the area to go back to school. He had nearly finished his four-year term; town elections are next April.
McClung had been doing consulting work with energy companies.
“From April to August, I didn’t have anything going on,” he said.
He said he since has started working again, but is only “kinda sorta” getting by, so he and Carol decided it was a good time to act on their desires for more education. He plans to study engineering at Colorado State University, where he previously got an animal science degree. Carol will attend Front Range Community College to study nursing.
Just last year, the two formed a nonprofit to help meet what had been heavy demand for child care in the Parachute area. It since has shut down.
“We just lost all the kids,” he said.
Falling school enrollment and rising rental vacancies reflect the departure of many families from the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area.
“I was feeling their pain even before I started feeling it myself, because we saw the same thing happen in the ‘80s,” said McClung, who lived through the region’s oil shale bust back then.
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said he’s sorry to see McClung leave.
“He’s been a wonderful asset to Parachute … and he’s been a good colleague in the valley,” Lambert said.
McClung said he plans to return someday. Perhaps Parachute will then boast a new Interstate 70 interchange west of town, a project McClung has pursued vigorously. He can point to a new town hall, annexations and the addition of commercial and industrial parks as some of the strides the town has made during his time in office.
After McClung’s departure, Mayor Pro Tem Judy Beasley will fill in while the town trustees decide whether to appoint a new mayor or wait for the election, McClung said.
Until recently, John Loschke had been mayor pro tem, McClung said. But Loschke, who also had done energy-related work, left town for another job.