Perry Will prepares for shift from wildlife officer to legislator
As the representative-elect for state House District 57, Perry Will is preparing for his seat by retiring from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, where he’s worked for 43 years.
A Republican panel of six on Feb. 5 appointed Will, of New Castle, to replace Bob Rankin, who was appointed to serve as senator for Colorado’s District 8 following the retirement of Sen. Randy Baumgardner.
Will was selected to the seat out of four candidates, including Joyce Rankin, wife of Bob Rankin and member of the Colorado Board of Education, and Zach Parsons, a Glenwood Springs-based prosecutor with the 9th District Attorney’s Office.
As a political newcomer, Will said he knows he has a steep learning curve ahead, but believes he has the necessary qualifications — mainly, a deep knowledge of the district.
“I know a lot about the district. I know the issues, not all of them inside and out, but I know the issues and the struggles,” Will said. “I want to help the people to have good jobs, raise their families here, and hopefully keep the youth here.”
Two important attributes the nominating committee was looking for at the Feb. 5 meeting were preparation for the role and a willingness to run again when the seat is up for re-election in 2020, said Phil Vaughn, a Rifle resident and chairman of the committee.
“Any person we’re looking for has got to hit the ground running in the Legislature immediately,” Vaughn said.
Will said he is committed to running in 2020, but his first goal will be getting up to speed on the bills before the Legislature this term, and weighing each proposed law’s potential impacts on the Western Slope.
Will has testified in the Legislature before, but admits he’s new to the other processes. And,he’s starting work several weeks into the five-month legislative session.
“Obviously, my learning curve is going to be steep, but once I get comfortable I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he said.
The plan, Will said, is to be sworn in late this week. That will give him some time to transfer his current responsibilities to others in the Glenwood Springs CPW office.
Will had already planned to retire from his role as area wildlife supervisor if he was appointed, but he said it feels fast.
“All the sudden, you’re it, and then you have to figure out how to get retired,” he said.
In recent weeks, Will has dealt with criticism for CPW’s role in euthanizing five mountain lions near Glenwood Springs, including what was believed to be a female mountain lion and her three cubs who appeared on security footage of a West Glenwood neighborhood in January.
After the Post Independent reported on the extermination of the mountain lions, Will said he heard from a lot citizens who disagreed with the decision and thought euthanasia should be a last resort.
Will said CPW decided to kill the mountain lions because they were behaving unpredictably and showed no fear of humans, making them a danger to the community.
He said that responding to blowback for the mountain lion decision, and similar issues he has dealt with over the years, has helped him make decisions based on facts and not merely public outcry. That’s experience that he believes will be useful in the Legislature.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Why did you do this,’ or ‘Why did you do that,’ and I have the background to know why we do the things we need to do,” Will said.
The Legislature may have a similar dynamic that he’s prepared for.
“You’re not going to make everyone happy, but at the same time, you do what’s best for the people in the community you represent. I’ve always done that throughout my career,” he said.