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7 cheers for civic engagement

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com

If I’m being completely honest, I was worried Monday morning. I was worried that my newly found hometown would fail to field enough candidates to serve in the roles opening up on city council.

I was happy to learn Monday evening that we not only had enough people to fill those positions, but we had three more to spare — a race.

Finding candidates to serve in local government positions is not always an easy task, especially when you move down the ladder to appointed volunteer positions. In my previous job, I remember learning about the various county boards, some of which had not held a meeting in more than a year. Most of those boards also had at least one longstanding vacancy.

In May, the town of Parachute appointed its newest trustee, Daniel Manzanares, to fill a vacancy left after Trustee John Yadloski suffered a stroke late in 2014. When it became clear Yadloski would not return to the position in 2015, the town was tasked with finding a replacement, but it was no easy task.

As Mayor Roy McClung previously said, it can be challenging to find people who are willing and able to make the time commitment. In talking with some leaders of fraternal organizations, I have heard similar remarks as part of the explanation for declining membership. People, especially those with families, are too engrossed with work and their personal lives. There simply are not enough hours in the day.

The “personal bubble” theory also was cited by Silt Police Chief Levy Burris in a recent conversation we had on drug abuse in the area. People, Burris said, are so consumed with life that it is hard to notice the toll drug abuse takes on a community. The problem is only exasperated in communities such as ours, where many people spend an hour or more commuting, in addition to working an eight, 10 or 12 hour day.

Of course, all of this is anecdotal speculation. There are no statistics that I am aware of indicating that people have become increasingly busier to the detriment of local governments and community organizations.

In fact, I saw some pretty strong evidence that we are incredibly engaged in our community last week at Mountain Rural Philanthropy Days. While I was impressed with the number of people in attendance, I was reminded, after the fact, that those at the conference were only a small sampling of the many nonprofits in the region. There are at least 500 active nonprofits in our five-county region, and those are only the registered ones, said Amy Barr, executive director of United Way Battlement to the Bells.

Last Thursday evening, I sat down with members of the White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV club to discuss a recent article and editorial on the Hubbard Mesa open area. I thought the discussion was constructive — there were points of agreement and others that we simply did not see eye-to-eye on — and I appreciated the invitation; I wish I would get more of them from other groups in the area.

I also appreciate the work the club does in maintaining local trails and removing tons of trash that has been mindlessly discarded by inconsiderate people.

The WRTRS ATV/UTV club is just one of many local organizations working to improve our community. If anything, I’ve found that we are engaged in more ways than we might realize, but, to circle back around, that does not always translate to involvement in local government. So thank you to our seven neighbors who stepped up to the plate, and good luck. I’m sure we will be in touch soon.

Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.


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