Keith and Alan Lambert related only by dedication to Rifle, 12 years as city councilmen
Citizen Telegram Editor
For the last dozen years, the phrase “no relation” has meant something to Rifle City Council.
But no more, as Alan Lambert and Keith Lambert, who share only the same last name, ended their 12 years of public service at the Wednesday, Sept. 4, meeting.
Neither man sought re-election to a fourth, four-year term in the Tuesday, Sept. 10, municipal election.
Both look back fondly on their time on City Council. Neither cites any single achievement, but the overall direction the city has gone during their tenures as a highlight.
The Lamberts first met at the table in front of the City Council in June 2001, where those with business before the council sit to comment and ask questions. Both men applied for a council vacancy that went to Keith Lambert.
“We’ve always had fun with the ‘we’re not related’ thing,” Keith Lambert said. “Alan would get calls from teenage boys, asking to talk to one of my daughters when they were in high school.”
Alan Lambert and Keith Lambert are related another way, but not one they sought. They were first elected on Sept. 11, 2001. The day that became known as 9-11, when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York City and crashed a third airliner in Pennsylvania.
“We just kind of forgot about the election with everything going on,” Alan Lambert said. “I didn’t even remember it was election day until the city clerk called that night and said I had won. No one could really think of anything else that day. The world changed, but it didn’t have any affect on the City Council.”
Keith Lambert also said that election didn’t matter much, after the terrorist attacks.
“It was just a small footnote to history,” Keith Lambert said.
Backgrounds rich in community service
Alan Lambert, 52, served two years on the city planning and zoning commission before his 2001 election to City Council. During his council tenure, he also served four years on the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, six or seven years on the board for the Cayton Ranger Station Foundation and eight years on the Rifle Creek Museum board. He was mayor pro tem on the council for the last four years.
Keith Lambert, 64, served eight years as a Rifle Fire Protection District board member and five years on the since-dissolved Rifle Metro Park District, and is a board member of the city visitors information fund, and Aspen and Rifle community foundations boards.
He served one year on the city planning and zoning commission and several years as Rifle’s representative to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.
Keith Lambert served 10 years as mayor, a position filled by selection among the councilmembers after each municipal election.
“I liked the ability it gave me to work with others,” he said of his time as mayor.
Like others, Alan Lambert decided to run for City Council when he saw how the city could be run better.
“I just decided instead of complaining, I would try to do something,” Alan Lambert said. “It looked like council was not working together and had a lot of turnover, so I thought I might be able to help, since I always thought I was pretty good working with others.”
“We met with other departments and groups around town and opened the lines of communication,” Alan Lambert said. “We realized that there was a lot of distrust towards the council, so by communicating with these groups, we were able to get more work done.”
For example, Alan Lambert points to the Midland building today, remodeled and the home of several businesses and the Thai Chili Bistro.
“The city was ready to use its derelict building powers and either force the owner to make some improvements or tear it down, or we’d tear it down and bill him the cost,” Alan Lambert recalled.
The move eventually led to the sale of the building to Israel Shapiro of Carbondale, who specializes in reviving old, historic structures.
“Our knight in shining armor came along at the right time,” Alan Lambert said.
Along with Centennial Park, the city’s justice center, operations and maintenance building and taking ownership of the two uranium mill tailings sites are projects Alan Lambert recalls with pride.
“We really pushed for the city to take ownership of those sites,” Alan Lambert said of the latter. “We have the maintenance building, the wastewater treatment plant and the Energy Innovation Center on those sites now, and I think they’ll both turn out to be something positive for Rifle.”
Alan Lambert said there are three things every council must address — the health, safety and welfare of its residents.
“It comes down to clean water, taking care of the city’s waste and providing good police protection and transportation,” Alan Lambert said. “Then you can address things like economic development, parks and recreation and making sure they’re done right with the money you have.”
Keith Lambert also listed three things a City Council should undertake — set a vision and tone for the city, manage the city budget, hire good people “and let them do their jobs.”
“From the get-go, we wanted to diversify the local economy,” Keith Lambert said. “We started down that road, but there’s still a ways to go.”
Words of advice
Alan Lambert’s advice to the next City Council is pretty simple — work together.
“You will have many different backgrounds and political philosophies,” he said. “Don’t demand that yours is the best and only one. We’ve all been on the short end of a vote, and you can’t take it personally. Be like a duck, shake it off and move on to the next decision.”
Keith Lambert’s advice for the next City Council is to learn how the strategic planning process helped set the tone for the city and city staff.
“Sales tax may be down right now, but it will come back,” Keith Lambert said. “Local governments by their nature are reactionary, but I think we were very proactive and set the tone for the city ourselves.”
Keith Lambert also advised the city to continue to work with other local and state government agencies.
“When you partner together with others, you’re miles ahead in a rapid fashion,” he said. “If they can do that, they will continue the strong march ahead we set for the last 10 or 12 years.”
While Alan Lambert noted his “salary” as a councilmember increased from around $50 a month when he started to $400 a month today, “sometimes it felt like I was working more for the city than myself.”
“You have to know what’s feasible and when to say you don’t have the time,” he added. “Otherwise, it will consume all your energy and time.”
Keith Lambert said his two daughters, now grown, married and with his first two grandchildren, live in Arizona.
“When they do come back, they say Rifle is a different city,” he said. “They see streets paved, parks, new businesses. They marvel at the Brenden Theatres and the roundabouts. I always wanted Rifle to be a city my daughters could be proud of, if they ever decided to move back.”
Alan Lambert said his 12 years have been a learning experience that never stops.
“Some things I thought would have been easier were the toughest,” he said. “The main thing I learned is you can’t make quick changes. The city is a big ship, it takes a long time to turn it around. But if you have good people and work hard together, you make the ship start to turn.”
Keith Lambert plans to spend more time with his two grandsons, 5 and 10 months of age. He will continue to serve on a few committees, he added.
“I won’t completely disappear, but I won’t be in front of the TV camera all the time, either,” Keith Lambert said. “I’m more than happy to let someone else do the talking for the city.”
Alan Lambert does not plan to move anywhere else now that his council term is over.
“Rifle is a great community with great people,” he said. “There are a lot of things to enjoy around here, too.”
“It was a great ride, it was fun,” Keith Lambert summed up, likely for both men. “You’d better have fun doing it, because you’re not paid very much. But all my life has been in public service, and it’s been an exciting time.”
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