Rifle’s Russell George to receive governor’s honor
September 29, 2018
Rifle native Russell George, a former state legislator and state government official for many years, will be honored with a special medal from Colorado's governor, signifying the many contributions George has made to communities across the state.
The 2018 Citizenship Medal is one of the highest honors given to citizens and organizations throughout Colorado, according to the Colorado website. It honors individuals and organizations for their significant contributions to communities throughout the state.
The medals will be presented at the Colorado Governor's Leadership Celebration on Thursday, Oct. 11, at the History Colorado Center.
"The Governor's Citizenship Medal was created with my predecessors to recognize the remarkable leaders in Colorado for their impact on their community, and to honor their legacy," said Gov. John Hickenlooper in a recent news release announcing the awards.
"I am honored to award the 2018 medals to some of our state's most extraordinary citizens," the governor said.
George will be presented with the Public and Community Service Award for his many years of service in state government and other community institutions.
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The award is given to a government or community leader "who serves the public with innovation, operational excellence and progressive vision."
"I'm grateful and humbled and honored that I've been selected," George said. "I didn't know anything about it before the governor called. My wife and I were coming back from Denver and I got a call from an unknown number. Normally I don't answer, but this time I did."
George is a fourth-generation Rifle native, graduating from Rifle High School and then from Colorado State University as a Boettcher Scholar before going off to Harvard Law School. He practiced water law in Rifle and in 1992 was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives from District 57, representing Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and, at the time, Pitkin County. A Republican, he served as Speaker of the House in 1999 and 2000.
Later, he was appointed by different governors, both Republican and Democrat, to be director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and then executive director for both the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
More recently, he served as president of Colorado Northwestern Community College, with campuses in Rangely and Craig, from 2010 to 2017.
And, he's come full circle with the Boettcher Foundation, as a former scholar who currently serves as chairman of the Boettcher Foundation Board of Trustees. He also served as a trustee for the organization from 2005-07.
George's great-grandparents homesteaded in Rifle in 1886 and, except for attending college and practicing law in Denver and volunteering in Montana, he's been a Rifle resident his entire life.
Along with George, Sara Gebretsadik of Denver will be presented with the Emerging Community Leader Award; Paul Major, Telluride Foundation president and CEO, will receive the Growth and Innovation Award; and the GE Johnson Construction Company is being honored with the Corporate Citizenship Award.