Western Slope Unhappy with Ritter Cabinet Choices

Bill Ritter won’t be sworn in for governor of Colorado until Tuesday, yet there is already vocal disagreement coming from the Western Slope about his administration. The complaints stem from the lack of cabinet appointees so far from the Western Slope. What triggered the grumblings was when Department of Natural Resources director under Gov. Owens, Russell George from Rifle, was not re-appointed to the position. Denver lawyer, Harris Sherman, was chosen instead.The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel remarked in its Sunday editorial:

Although no one can begrudge the governor-elect for filling his Cabinet with people he trusts and who hale from his own party, Ritter would have been very well served if he had chosen to retain Rifle Republican Russell George as director of the Department of Natural Resources. One need not be a Western Slope partisan as this corner is to recognize that George has been among the most able DNR directors in anyone’s memory.

Reeves Brown, Executive Director of Club 20, a coalition of residents, business and elected officials, governments and organizations on the Western Slope, noted to club members last week that the concentration of Ritter appointees were within a 30-minute commute from downtown Denver. In a recent letter to Ritter, Brown criticized the incoming governor:

…With the notable exception of Mr. John Stulp of Lamar as your very able Commissioner of Agriculture, we can’t help but notice that there has not yet been a single person appointed from outside the Front Range, much less the Western Slope. Granted, the Front Range boasts a deep pool of incredibly talented individuals, but there are some equally talented individuals on THIS side of the Continental Divide as well-Colorado’s western border does NOT end at the Jefferson County building.

As you consider your remaining appointments, we hope you will also consider the value in having a geographically-diverse leadership team which represents the breadth of your statewide constituency…

As the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel put it: “In so far as Western Slope representation in Ritter’s Cabinet appointments is concerned, this region of the state might as well be Outer Turkmenistan.”

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer responded to a Craig Daily Press inquiry: “Reeves Brown was on our transition team (Brown served as co-chairman of Ritter’s transition advisory economic development and international trade committee) so he’s been providing advice,” Dreyer said. “Clearly his input and suggestions are valuable and we too want to make sure that the administration … is representative of the entire state.”

Dreyer said he could not comment on future appointments.

Garfield County Commissioner, Tresi  Houpt, who was on the advisory committee for the DNR appointments, said that apart from Russell George, she had heard there were very few applicants for cabinet positions from the Western Slope.

“That might have something to do with the lack of any cabinet members being appointed from the Western Slope,” she observed.

Rep. Kathleen Curry D-Gunnison, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee and who headed the DNR advisory committee, said that she was disappointed more people from the Western Slope didn’t apply for the DNR position. She didn’t think that Ritter’s decision to appoint Sherman was politically based and it had more to do with Ritter wanting new ideas and new faces in his administration.

Duke Cox, chairman of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a citizen organization in Garfield County active in reducing oil and gas impacts, agreed with Curry’s assessment.

“There needs to be some changes made in DNR –especially concerning the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission — and one couldn’t expect Russell George to fire some people that he had worked with these past years,” Cox noted.