Jennifer Sanborn recalls ‘crazed’ times on Rifle City Council

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor
Contributed Photo
Staff Photo |

Seeing the Bookcliffs for the first time in 1992 was all it took for Jennifer Sanborn to decide to live in Rifle.

“I was like, oh, my God, I want to live here,” the two-term Rifle City Councilwoman said. “It was right after the Colorado River had flooded and knocked out some bridges. But I just wanted to live here. Even if Third Street looked like a ghost town.”

For the next 21 years, Sanborn did just that. After deciding earlier this year to not seek a third term in the Sept. 10 municipal election, Sanborn, 46, wrapped up her eight years on the council at the Wednesday, Sept. 4, meeting. She and her husband, Kelly Allen, have nearly finished moving to Paonia. But Sanborn will continue to manage the Midland building and the Rifle Mercantile Arts building.

A debate over cutting down some longtime downtown trees led Sanborn to decide to run for City Council eight years ago.

“So I turned on TV and tuned in,” she said of the meetings aired on cable TV. “They were just regular citizens, so I thought, ‘Heck, I could do that’.”

Dealing with developers, realtors and “get-rich-quick-off-Rifle” folks was the most interesting for Sanborn.

“When we hit the boom, things were just so crazed, everyone wanted to make a quick buck off Rifle,” she said. “As a team, I think we did a good job mitigating against that. We wanted quality developments, not just stuff thrown up quickly. Aesthetics matter, since we all have to live here, after the developers are done.”

Two issues Sanborn wishes she could go back and try to change are protecting the Colorado River corridor from gravel pits and finding a different solution to the need for a new water treatment plant.

“I also would have listened more and spoken less at first,” she added. “But I would absolutely do it all over again. I think every citizen should spend some portion of their life on a board that makes a community a better place.”

Sanborn, a self-employed artist and photographer, believes she brought a different perspective to the council.

“I remember sometimes Keith would shake his head and say, ‘I never know what’s going to come out of your mouth’,” she recalled. “I think my passion for the natural world made me more of an advocate of protecting our natural environment.”

That outlook and her public comments often didn’t set well with supporters of the area’s natural gas industry.

“Our only regulatory power over the industry is to protect our watershed,” Sanborn said. “So I tried all I could to protect the city’s drinking water supply (through the Beaver Creek Watershed Protection District), and if that’s why the council was seen as unfriendly to the industry, that speaks volumes.”

Perhaps ironically, Sanborn said her husband is employed by the industry.

Sanborn’s advice for the next City Council is to “let your ears be bigger than your mouths,” she said.

“Ask lots and lots of questions and lead from your heart,” she added. “Sincerity helps you sleep at night.”

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