Teller Commissioners Kick-off 2022 With Themes of Cooperation and Respect

Dan Williams Snags Top Spot as Board Chairman

Rick Langenberg

The Teller County commissioners underwent a slight change in their leadership guard last week, as part of an annual tradition.

But the board maintained the familiar themes it advocated a year ago, when a new group of commissioners assumed power. More specifically, they urged cooperation and respect for individual choices, regarding the touchy subject of vaccine mandates and testing regarding the COVID-19 epidemic.  In addition, the commissioners made it clear they must take a vigilant role in monitoring state legislation to protect the rural character of Teller.

They already have taken off their gloves regarding one of the first new legislative bills proposed in the 2022 legislative session, aimed at banning the hunting of wild animals (see related story).

With no discussion and in a somewhat low-key manner, the board appointed Dan Williams as the chairman for 2022.  Williams, a familiar figure in Teller County at veteran ceremonies and formerly as a lead planner, will run their twice-a-month meetings.  Erik Stone, the former chairman of the Teller Republican Party, gained the vice-chairman post; and Bob Campbell, the most senior board member, was appointed as commissioner. Campbell is up for re-election in Nov. 2022, a seat that could really get determined later this spring and in the summer.

Typically, the board changes these leadership assignments on an annual basis.

Last week marked the board’s annual organizational meeting, when elected leaders reflect on past accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.

Stone described 2021 as a successful and active year and hopes the board continues its current track record. He cited such measures as making a key change  in the leadership position for the department of public health and environment, which he  believes set the stage for a pro-active COVID vaccination program and a better tone of cooperation with residents and business operators.  In addition, he said the board helped in supporting the end of the COVID color-code dial system that created much confusion and could have potentially shut down certain businesses, such as casinos.

He said the county overcame the threat of trying “to divide people” with its COVID policies and preached the importance of “respecting each other.”

“This is about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Stone.

The commissioners have made it clear they encourage eligible citizens to get vaccinated, but they agree this is a matter of individual choice. The board has tried to open the avenue for more testing and vaccinations, but has refrained from imposing any more COVID restrictions.  They have noted that the economic health of the area  is equally important as health concerns.

As far as other accomplishments, Stone mentioned the opening of the new sheriff’s headquarters in Divide and pursuing the goal of making the county completely debt-free, a task it achieved in late 2021.  Moreover, he cited the fact that the board met with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a state leader whom they often disagree with.

Both Williams and Campbell echoed similar sentiments, and  stressed the importance of cooperation and respect.  “We do work together,” said Williams. “We are not red or blue, when there is an emergency.”

The entire board lauded their current department managers. One of their big initial personnel moves will involve the selection of a new county administrator to replace Sheryl Decker, who is stepping down at the end of March. The commissioners have already signed a contract with an executive recruiting company to facilitate a national search.

Bustling and Challenging Times For Cripple Creek

This same theme of cooperation was echoed by Cripple Creek Mayor Milford Ashworth.

Ashworth thanked the commissioners in their assistance in mutual concerns.  He said Cripple Creek faces many  fiscal challenges due to the decline of  many gaming  betting devices, a byproduct of the COVID pandemic that shut down the industry for three months. Unfortunately, gaming device fees are the primary funding tool for the city government.

The mayor said the industry was rebounding well, but was operating with much fewer devices than before.

Cripple Creek now features less than 3,000 games and betting devices, a figure that Ashworth estimated at an all-time low.

But he noted that the long-term economic picture of Cripple Creek is quite robust.

“The casinos are doing better than ever,” said  Ashworth. “It will all work out.”

He reported much construction activity, with the development of mega casino/hotels. Both Bronco Billy’s and Triple Crown Casinos are pursuing ambitious new hotel ventures, according to the mayor. “There will be a lot going on in Cripple Creek this year,” concluded the mayor.