A time to reflect and a time to say goodbye, the first Teller County commissioners' meeting of 2013 was a farewell-hello event. As Jim Ignatius and Bill Buckhanan sat in the commission chairs for the last time Jan 8, Marc Dettenrieder and Norm Steen took their seats.
While neither blushed, Ignatius and Buckhanan were heralded and their praises sung by several members of the audience.
Buckhanan's is the voice of reason, said county treasurer Bob Campbell. “We were always able to rely on your common sense and morality in making good decisions with principled ideas,” Campbell said.
Buckhanan thrust the county into the national eye by serving on the public-lands committee for the National Association of Counties; locally, he was on the workmen's compensation board for County Technical Services, Inc.
A familiar figure around southern Teller County, Buckhanan could be counted on for support at community events such as Donkey Derby Days and the county fair.
On the northern end of the county, Ignatius has been a “tremendous leader” for the past 9 ½ years, Campbell continued. “We praise your efforts in obtaining gaming and forest-health funds, which will be a legacy for generations to come,” he said, referring to Ignatius's success in attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars for fire-mitigation projects.
In a time of rancor among today's state and federal leaders, Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley recognized the two for their spirit of cooperation. “The way we've worked together over the years has been phenomenal,” Turley said. “At budgetary times we've had open communication, good partnering and you can't ask for more than that.”
Ray DuBois, general manager of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. agreed. “You've restored my faith in government; I wish we had people like you at the federal level,” he said. “I appreciate the support you've given the mine and everything you've done for the county.”
Ann Oatman Gardner, representative from the Colorado Springs office of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., drew laughs by emphasizing Buckhanan's Republican ideology.
“I couldn't come up here without having Commissioner Buckhanan telling me exactly how things stood, couldn't get out until I heard exactly how he felt about what Michael was doing in the U.S. Senate,” she said. “I always appreciated that. As far as the new guys, you can go anywhere you want with me, because Bill has always kept me honest. I welcome it.”
Apparently, Ignatius was easier on Bennet's representative. “Jim, it's hard to see you go because you are the go-to guy for me in understanding how PILT (payment in lieu of taxes on public lands), Coalition for Upper South Platte and the Forest Service works, so I'm gonna come find you,” she said. “You're not off the hook. And thank you so much for your service from Michael Bennet.”
BUCKHANAN AND IGNATIUS SAY GOODBYE
In bidding farewell, Buckhanan and Ignatius were reflective. “I just want to thank the people of Teller County. Back in 2004 when I ran for this office, I told people that some days I'm going to make you mad, some days I'm going t make you happy. I hope that I've made you happier than I've made you mad.
“While sitting at this desk I've had some people upset and disappointed with me. There have been times I've been accused of things I didn't do and times when I've done some things I didn't receive recognition for. But, basically, I am thankful for the opportunity to work for the people of Teller County.”
Ignatius took his leave with a prediction. “The transition is going to be very smooth; over the past six months Marc and Norm have shadowed us consistently, at meetings all over the community,” he said. “They will continue to provide great leadership and vision to the county. The employees in this county are just awesome; it's been an honor to work with each and every one of you.”
At a farewell reception that evening, Ignatius offered a clue about where he found the energy to work so diligently for Teller County, at the local, state and national levels.
“The political process is frustrating but unbelievably rewarding when you can make a difference for your country. This process works,” he said.