GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - In a jovial ceremony Tuesday morning, John Martin and Mike Samson took the oath of office as Garfield County commissioners.
Samson is entering his second term, and Martin is starting his fifth. They join Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who is in the middle of his first four-year term on the board.
For the commissioners, the ceremony was a celebratory moment between long, sometimes contentious political campaigns and the commencement of four more years of work as public officials.
"It has been a long and winding road," said a visibly emotional Martin, referencing his 16 years as a commissioner and time as a Glenwood Springs police officer before that.
Addressing a room full of county staff and other elected officials, Martin thanked his wife, Nancy.
"During 44 years of marriage, she has been my anchor, and you guys have been my challenge," he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Martin said this would likely be his last term as county commissioner.
"I think this is pretty much it, but the door's always open," he said.
Both men said they looked forward to serving for the next four years, though Samson noted that the last four haven't always been easy.
"There have been some times when I've said, 'I'm glad this day is over,' but I've never had a bad day," Samson said.
In a vote by the three commissioners, Martin was re-elected as chairman of the county board and Samson was re-elected chair pro tem, meaning that he will serve as chair in Martin's absence.
Martin defeated Sonja Linman in the Nov. 6 election by a margin of 51 to 48 percent, while Samson beat Aleks Briedis by 54 to 45 percent.
After the ceremony, the commissioners posed in the meeting chambers with their spouses for photos.
"We may break the camera," joked Samson to the other commissioners as he posed with his wife, Janet. "Do you guys want to go first?"
Samson said his primary focus over the next four years will be ensuring that the county maintains a balanced budget and spends within its means.
The county currently has more than $100 million in its reserve fund.
Martin expressed a broader aim for his fifth term. He said he has prioritized low taxes and balanced budget during his time in office, and now plans to turn his attention to more intangible matters.
"I want to do away with the bullying," he said, "and get people to resolve their issues together."
Jankovsky, for his part, said his focus for the remainder of his term would be on creating jobs and making Garfield County more friendly to business.
The commissioners have ruled on controversial issues in recent years, and have aroused the opposition of many environmentalists and open government advocates.
In 2012 alone, they settled a lawsuit with two citizen groups over a meeting with oil shale industry representatives that was not properly advertised to the public, and approved a waste transfer station outside of Carbondale despite broad public opposition.
They also opposed a BLM proposal to reduce the amount of public land in Colorado available for oil shale development, and came out against a BLM plan to increase protections for the sage grouse on public lands.
After the ceremony, the three commissioners stood arm-in-arm between the Colorado flag and the U.S. flag for a photo.
"This is going to be used in so many negative campaign ads in the future," Martin quipped.