Known for her dedication to her community, her tenaciousness in getting things done and her long-range outlook, lifelong Grand Valley resident and four-term Mesa County Commissioner Doralyn Genova died Friday after a short, unexpected illness. She was 76.
Genova was only the second woman to be elected to the Mesa County Commission in 1989, and the first Democratic woman to serve on that three-member panel.
The first was Maxine Albers, a Republican, with whom Genova served for a short time.
Genova ended up serving on the commission for 16 years, including during a brief time when all three commissioners were Democrats.
"She was quite a lady," said Jim Spehar, a former Grand Junction mayor and a Democrat who served with Genova on the commission for four years. "Doralyn was a force of nature. She was probably the best local politician that I've ever witnessed. She and Maxine Albers kind of set the bar as county commissioners of either gender go."
Born Oct. 21, 1941, in Grand Junction to Art and Anna Brodak, Genova grew up on the family farm on what is now Patterson Road with her two sisters, Henrietta Connor and Shirley Kelley. That farm was homesteaded in the 1890s.
She was a graduate of Grand Junction High School, Parks College in Denver and what was then known as Mesa College, now Colorado Mesa University.
In addition to serving on the board of commissioners, she also spent 13 years on the Clifton Water District board of directors, and the Club 20 governing board. Genova also served on numerous local and state boards and commissions, including the Colorado Energy Planning Commission, the Grand Valley Regional Transportation Committee and the Mesa County Economic Development Council for Sustainable Agriculture.
She also was involved with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the Mesa County Women's Network, the Mesa County Historical Society and the Mesa County Cattlemen's Association.
Genova won numerous awards for her work, including being the first recipient of Club 20's Dan Noble Award. She was also honored by the Colorado Division of Disaster Emergency Services, the Glade Park Volunteer Fire Department, the Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services and the Mesa County Friends of 4H.
In June 2004, then U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who now serves on the County Commission, paid tribute to Genova on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"She had a lot of common sense, people really liked her and I don't know of any Republicans who spoke ill of her," McInnis said. "People really liked her, and that's obviously in a county that's as conservative as Mesa County. They elected her and re-elected her. She was well-respected, and that speaks volumes. She was very capable."
Spehar said one of her biggest accomplishments while serving as a commissioner was to get the Mesa County jail built.
At the time, the county was under a federal court order to do so, and Genova insisted it be done so as to require the fewest staff workers in order to save the county money in personnel costs in the long term.
"Doralyn was smarter than I was in retrospect because she knew there was a pace and some timing to how we did things in what we were trying to do," Spehar said. "She always came from a community prospective. Doralyn was a leader in so many ways that few people who've served since could measure up to."
Genova has requested that there be no services, and that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to HopeWest. Interment will be set at a later date at Calvary Cemetery.