Chairmanship a matter of respect
At issue here is the biased brouhaha over who was recently elected to be chairman of the Board of County Commis-sioners.
If Mr. Rogers had made a simple phone call and had wanted to hear “the rest of the story” directly from Michael or from me, this column would not have been necessary.
Instead he chose to not let the facts get in the way of telling a poor story. Mr. Menconi could have chosen to speak respectfully with his fellow commissioners directly. Instead he chose to wage a failed campaign through a willing and gullible press.
I have had the opportunity to work with three different boards of county commissioners, and I can say that Mr. Menconi has been the most disruptive of any of the members that I have worked with. Even the bickering between James Johnson and Johnnette Phillips was not as much of a problem.
It was absurd for Don Rogers to say that I didn’t realize that Mr. Menconi was interested in becoming Chairman. Mr. Rogers misquotes me by saying that I “just didn’t realize Menconi might be interested in taking his customary turn as chairman.”
Of course I knew. What I said was that Commissioner Menconi had never talked to me about it directly. Mr. Menconi admitted that he had spoken to Michael about the chairmanship in private. His only mention of it to me was at a meeting, when Michael was not present, where he threatened that there would be unspecified reprisals if we didn’t discuss the subject in public.
Mr. Menconi had numerous opportunities, after his threat, to discuss the chairmanship when all three commissioners were together in public but chose not to.
There are some other misunderstandings that ought to be cleared up, as well. State statute requires that at least after every census, a county be divided into three districts with an equal number of residents in each. The 2000 census gave us very current numbers to complete this task as we recently did. These districts are used as a residency requirement for commissioners so that all three members could not be from the same town for obvious reasons.
Since the entire county votes on the commissioner position, it is misleading to say that a commissioner represents “his district” only. A commissioner would in fact be derelict in his duties if he only cared about one-third of the county.
Don Rogers asserts that Mr. Menconi has earned his turn at the gavel. What Mr. Menconi has not earned is the respect of his peers. There is no hereditary right to the chairmanship. The chairman needs to rank his work at the county as his top priority. Mr. Menconi chose teaching in Denver over staying to complete a full meeting day of the board on several occasions. In over two years (totaling 24 monthly inspections) Mr. Menconi has only been with Michael and with me twice to inspect the jail.
Jail inspections are not quite as glamorous as skipping out of commissioner meetings early to teach a class but they are part of the job. When the board recently met to interview applicants for key positions at the county, once again no Mr. Menconi.
The chairman is also on the front line when it comes to the image of the county. Mr. Menconi’s temper tantrums and foul mouth in public, and with our employees, are embarrassing examples of behavior that is unbecoming of an elected official.
Michael Gallagher not only asked me directly for my vote, he also earned it. The new wildfire regulations are but one example where he spent countless hours with staff to come up with something that we hope will give additional protection to the county.
Michael and I spent many hours at the Panorama Fire in Carbondale helping victims retrieve medicines and needed articles from their quarantined homes. Who do you think has the best relationship with the fire chiefs as Eagle County enters another potentially catastrophic wildfire season?
High altitude helicopter training is essential to the safety and effectiveness of our military as we operate in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Michael spent several days with our senators, congressmen, and top military brass both in Washington and in Eagle County working to ensure long-term funding and the acquisition of new state of the art equipment for our local facility. The HAATS helicopter training program at our airport is the only high altitude training operation of its kind in the free world. How well do you think pacifist Menconi would be received by military experts if he was even willing to represent us in this endeavor?
Michael presides over the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration and Thanksgiving Day dinner at St. Patrick’s Parish in Minturn. These community events have grown to include over 600 people and many pastors from different denominations. The list goes on and on.
All three commissioners are in contact with different groups within the county, as might be expected. Our recently arrived Mr. Rogers, who travels in limited circles around his office desk, apparently believes that Commissioner Gallagher restricts his outings to the county office once a week.
Michael is a responsible husband of 36 years, a parent of four boys, a Vietnam veteran and a county resident for almost 30 years. This speaks for itself.
Newcomers Rogers and Menconi need to reconsider their condescending and arrogant attitudes toward Commissioner Gallagher. I have been impressed with the people who know and respect Michael for a lifetime of service to his country and this community regardless of whether or not the press recognizes his accomplishments.
He is a kind man of integrity, honor and high ethical standards. When I compared my voting options as to which man was the best leader for Eagle County, the choice was obvious.
Editor’s note: Commissioners Stone and Gallagher were asked repeatedly by reporters for comment on this issue. Rogers’ column was based directly on their responses, or lack thereof, to questions for the public record in the understanding that this issue was one for public discussion and consideration, since presumably both gentleman answer to the public rather than to editors.