New elected officials take office, 
while candidates vie for City Council

Didn’t we just finish an election season? And now we have another one getting underway?

Last week, two new Mesa County commissioners began their duties and, over in Denver, newly-elected Rep. Jared Wright officially began his term representing House District 54. Now the rubber hits the road, as speculation and promises make way for the realities of elected office and real-time decision-making.

And soon we’ll be knee-deep in campaigning for Grand Junction City Council seats, which already are drawing interest from a number of potential candidates and offering challenges to incumbent council members.

It’s no secret that your Tuesday morning editorial page columnist wasn’t exactly a cheerleader for Rose Pugliese, John Justman or Wright during the 2012 campaign season. In fact, in a couple of post-election conversations with Pugliese, she’s told me one of her goals (well down the list, I hope) is to get a favorable mention from yours truly.

I hope she’s successful in that regard and suspect she will be. Here’s why.

As I’ve served side-by-side with a couple of dozen folks of various political stripes in local elected office, and worked with literally hundreds of others either professionally or while active in municipal and county government organizations, one thing has been clear. For the best of them, usually sooner rather than later, there’s a recognition that the responsibilities of their office demand a broader outlook than the campaign rhetoric that put them there.

There’s inevitably a time when those responsibilities will mean saying “no” to a friend or someone you respect.  There’ll also be a time when supporters will be surprised at a post-election position their candidate takes, a vote that’s unexpected and might seem out of character. Those are times when critics shouldn’t be afraid to offer a compliment or say, “Thank you.”

There’s much that puzzled me about the actions of departed commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland during their eight years in office. Past columns are replete with that litany. I remember Rowland saying, as we sat beside one another at some community meeting along the way, that we should each re-examine our positions on some matter I’ve since forgotten, since we seemed to be in agreement.

But we should appreciate the work that the Board of Commissioners did to expand the Riverfront Trails system, to support the process that established the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, to attack Mesa County’s drug problems and to keep children’s issues at the forefront.

Justifiable criticism for other actions should not preclude appreciation for jobs well done on those issues.

Much has been said about the personal travails of Jared Wright. But he is now duly elected as a state legislator. The next several months will tell us whether we have a Rep. Wright that meets the promise he showed as an effective student leader at Mesa State College or a lawmaker still subject to the failings demonstrated more recently.

We owe him the opportunity to make his case. Few of us have not been afforded a second chance, a fresh start. And, lest this turn into too much of a love fest, let’s recognize there’s not too high a bar for Wright to clear when compared to our other two state legislators from Mesa County.

Now that state and county positions are filled, it’s time for Grand Junction voters to start thinking about City Council elections in April. The petition process is already under way and, with four council seats up for grabs, it’s possible there could be a new majority governing the city in early May.

Incumbents Laura Luke and Tom Kenyon, along with Mayor Bill Pitts, have picked up petitions to put themselves on the ballot again, but they seem to be guaranteed opposition. Council member Teresa Coons is term-limited, ensuring at least one fresh face on the council.

Contenders circulating petitions or who have otherwise indicated interest include Rick Brainerd (who would challenge Pitts), Martin Chazen (challenging Luke) and Phyllis Norris (running against Kenyon). Robert Noble and former councilman and current school board member Harry Butler may both seek the open seat being vacated by Coons. More candidates could emerge before petitions are due Jan. 21.

It only takes 50 signatures. Sign up and let the fun begin!

Jim Spehar remembers that post-election feeling of being the dog that caught the car and then had to figure out what to do with it. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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