Former Carbondale mayor, CMC vet-tech pioneer Randy Vanderhurst dies
Randy Vanderhurst, who helped create the Veterinary Technology Program at Colorado Mountain College and saw Carbondale through a period of growth as a two-term mayor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has died.
Vanderhurst died Sept. 7 at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver shortly after being diagnosed with pneumonia and a malignancy, according to his wife, Charlotte Vanderhurst. He was 79.
Vanderhurst moved to Carbondale in 1973 to join the CMC-Spring Valley Vet-Tech program in its infancy, building it into one of the most respected programs in the region before retiring in 1995.
Already two years into a stint as a Carbondale town trustee at that time, he was appointed to fill the vacant mayor’s seat after town voters upheld a decision to allow a controversial golf course development — today’s River Valley Ranch — to proceed.
It was a controversial time in Carbondale growth politics. The town saw a change in town manager, the buildout of RVR, including Garfield County’s first affordable housing units, and a vigorous debate over the future development of a large piece of commercial property at the town’s main entrance.
Vanderhurst went on to serve until 2002, when he lost the mayor’s seat to Michael Hassig amid a heated debate over a big-box development that had been proposed for the Crystal River Marketplace property along Highway 133.
A new City Market store and a mix of commercial and residential is just now being built on that site, after two previous development proposals were shot down by voters.
“It was a pretty contentious time,” recalled longtime former town planner Mark Chain.
“But Randy was always a stabilizing influence at town hall,” Chain said. “He showed leadership and kept a level head.”
Vanderhurst’s scientific knowledge even came in handy when the town dealt with a case of cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause gastrointestinal distress, in the municipal water supply.
As a teacher of animal science, Vanderhurst became a sort of internal expert on the matter, Chain said.
“And, he always had a pretty good sense of humor about things,” he said.
His wife of 55 years, Charlotte, observed that, despite disagreements among townsfolk, there was “good energy” in Carbondale during that era.
“When we’d be out in town, people would thank him for being the mayor and appreciated what he did,” she said. “He was really more of a full-time mayor, because he was retired and had the time.
“He didn’t have an agenda, he wasn’t a developer and he didn’t own a business that wanted to make some connection.
“There’s kind of a purity in that,” she said. “It was just a chance to give back, and that’s really what drove him.”
The Vanderhursts became immersed in the community immediately upon arriving in Carbondale in 1973. Randy was part of a group of business leaders that served as a predecessor for today’s Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. He also was involved with the Carbondale Community United Methodist Church, and later helped to start the Senior Matters organization.
Vanderhurst earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California Davis in the early 1960s.
He was later drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Stationed at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., he developed the Army’s formal veterinary technician program.
“Randy was one of the originals in the country in that field, and brought a lot of suggestions to CMC,” Charlotte said. “He knew his stuff, and really made it soar.”
Randy also was an accomplished musician, and enjoyed playing the guitar and harmonica, she said.
In recent years, she said much of their time was spent traveling around the world, including a special trip to Australia earlier this year.
There will be a celebration of life for Randy Vanderhurst at 1 p.m. Sept. 21 at The Orchard in Carbondale.
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