"Go out and do what you can to make the city run," is the advice from Vicki Choate, who will step down from the Rifle Housing Authority board of directors this month after 36 years of service. Choate, a Rifle native and 1958 graduate of Rifle High School, got involved with the housing authority almost by accident. She and her late husband, Bob, were having coffee with the then-city manager, who mentioned the difficulty he was having finding people to volunteer for the city."I said I would volunteer. He wrote something on a napkin, and I was in three days later," Choate said. The Rifle Housing Authority was just getting off the ground, and Choate was involved in every step of the process, from filling out paperwork to applying for loans and grants to supervising the bid process and convincing an architect to create building plans without any guarantee of payment."If we didn't get the loan, he didn't get paid," she explained. "That might have been the toughest part."Since those early days, the authority expanded to 106 housing units for seniors and disabled citizens, paid off all their loans but one, went through numerous renovation projects, and earned the federal Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 property of the year award for best housing twice and manager of the year once. All this was accomplished while "shopping locally" - using local contractors and suppliers for maintenance and renovations whenever possible - and staying within a budget. "That's something the government could learn to do," she said. The board eventually hired her as bookkeeper, a position she will continue to hold after her retirement from the board of directors."Without Vicki, there would be no housing authority," said Natalie Bowman, the authority's executive director. "Vicki's dedication, hard work and panache have made it what it is. She has done a really good job."If Choate's work with the authority wasn't enough to keep her busy, Choate also raised two sons, taught school, owned and operated the Rifle Hardware Store, worked as a bookkeeper for the Delaney & Balcomb law firm, served on the Rifle City Council and the Rifle Planning Commission, was the youngest executive director ever appointed by the Chipeta Girl Scout Council and taught business classes at Colorado Mountain College."That was just a spare job," she said. When she steps down from the board, Choate's place as board chair will be assumed by Frank Breece.Choate said finding time for volunteer work is possible. "Most positions don't take up a lot of time," she said. "They just fill a slot.""It's been a joy," she said of her service for the housing authority board. "I've really enjoyed it. The housing authority provides safe, secure housing that citizens can afford. When I come up [to the office] and look out and see all these places, it gives me a good feeling."
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