George won’t decide on future till next year |

George won’t decide on future till next year

Rifle resident Russell George’s resume is chock-full of experience in state government. Yet come next year, he expects to be looking for work, however briefly.

George, the former state lawmaker and then head of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, now serves under Gov. Bill Owens as director of the state Department of Natural Resources. But this is Owens’ last year in office due to term limits, and George will join other Owens appointees in leaving their jobs when their boss leaves office.

“The way I’ve set myself up, I am in fact unemployed on the day my resignation is effective,” George said.

That doesn’t necessarily rule out a return to his current job. Fellow Republican Bob Beauprez, who is competing against Democrat Bill Ritter to replace Owens, has said he would love to keep George in the DNR job. However, George said in an interview Monday he thinks it is best for him not to be putting out feelers now about his future work.

“That’s a clean way, that’s the way I like to do things,” he said.

George said he doesn’t want to create any appearance that he’s using his current position to create future employment opportunities. A Beauprez supporter, he also has told Beauprez he doesn’t think his support should be contingent on the promise of a job if Beauprez wins. George said when he was a state lawmaker, he likewise declined to promise his peers leadership assignments when he sought their votes in his successful campaign to become speaker of the House of Representatives.

For now, George said, “What I’ve been saying is I’m thrilled to complete the opportunity that I’ve had, and I mean that, serving Bill Owens. When he finishes, my resignation goes in along with everyone else’s.”

He acknowledges at least thinking about what he might be doing next.

“I’m still employable and need to be employed for a while. It’s a change in my life,” he said.

George said he’s not worried about his future. One possibility, he said, is to return to practicing law, as he did in Rifle before embarking on his political career.

George expects to keep plenty busy between now and then, overseeing a department with purview over water, wildlife, oil and gas development and other areas.

One major project that is nearing conclusion is his role with the state’s Roadless Areas Review Task Force, which he heads. The diverse group last week unveiled its draft recommendation for how roadless areas on federal lands in Colorado should be managed in the future. The draft generally calls for protection of such areas but supports allowing road-building in certain circumstances.

George said the group was faced with a tight deadline and a difficult task in trying to reconcile a broad range of opinions.

“I’m very pleased that we held ourselves together as a consensus group from day one because all the pressures were against us to do that,” he said.

The group’s final recommendation will go to Owens, who will then decide on a recommendation to make to the federal government.

“He’s been very good about this. He has stayed out of it, not trying to influence any of us. I’ve not asked him to be involved, he’s not asked to be involved,” George said.

As to what Owens may ultimately recommend, “I have no idea how he’ll approach that. I don’t need to know, because that’s within his discretion.”

As George looks to his future with uncertainty, he also is looking back over his political career to date with gratitude.

“I will probably always look back over these years and think what a wonderful opportunity I’ve had,” he said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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