Elmer ‘Buckey’ Arbaney dies at 70
He was a man known for good morals and good ideas, a former Garfield County commissioner who pulled the county through tough times, and a loving, caring father always there to extend his helping hand. Elmer “Buckey” Arbaney died Monday morning at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction after becoming trapped beneath his all-terrain vehicle while irrigating his fields near Glenwood Springs on Saturday. He was 70. “He helped and touched a lot of people,” said Arbaney’s son-in-law, Larry Thrun. A graduate of the old Garfield County High School in Glenwood Springs, Arbaney was born in Carbondale and co-owned with his father the Arbaney and Sons sawmill operation near Glenwood until 1983. But Arbaney may be best known for his two terms as a Garfield County commissioner from 1988-1996, helping pull the county out of its financial straits following the economically devastating departure of oil giant Unocal in the early 1990s. With a $500 million tax base disappearing overnight after Unocal pulled out, Arbaney was the “very conservative person that we needed,” said former County Commissioner Arnold Mackley, who served with Arbaney. “We had to cut budgets, we had to turn off the county television at one point because of lack of funds,” he said. “Buckey was probably at the tail end of the depression. He knew how hard it was to make a buck stretch. … He’d seen the hard times and knew how to work with the county budgets.”Mackley called Arbaney a “self-made man” and a straightforward person with good morals and good ideas who was a “pleasure to serve with.”Glenwood resident Marian Smith also served with Arbaney during his tenure on the commission.”He was certainly dedicated to his constituents and was willing to go the extra mile for them,” she said. “He was a good person to work with.”Smith said she’ll remember the road expertise Arbaney had because of his experience with heavy equipment. “I think it was important to have somebody there who understood roads and weight limits and took a lot of interest in it,” she said. “We spent a lot of time on county roads.”Arbaney was known for his political party switch while on the commission. Smith, who disassociated herself with the Democratic party while in office, said Arbaney ran as a Democrat during his first campaign, then switched to the Republican Party when he ran for re-election. “I think it was just a change of philosophy once he got into government,” she said. Others still working for the county remember Arbaney fondly. “He was a very likable person, and he knew what he wanted and how people should be treated, and was a very good person,” said County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf. “He is from the old school – he did things that way and respected people.”County Operations Manager Dale Hancock said he’ll remember Buckey Arbaney the downhill skier, Army veteran and “interesting guy.”Hancock remembered crossing Grand Avenue when Arbaney would drive by in a truck, hitting the rig’s horn as he passed by. He scared “the bejesus out of me,” Hancock said. A full obituary will appear later this week.Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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