December 20, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Wednesday was “Mick Ireland Day” in Pitkin County, according to a proclamation in honor of the long-time public servant.The county commissioners’ meeting room in Aspen was packed at noon, and when Commissioner Ireland called the order, all in attendance covered their faces with masks depicting Ireland at different ages and, in unison, the crowd crooned “Moo.”Ireland could not seek re-election in November due to term limits. Former Aspen mayor and current City Councilwoman Rachel Richards replaces him in January after winning election to the seat.”I’m ready for it,” Ireland said. After stepping down he plans to continue work as a substitute teacher, hopes to write about resort town economies and take some time for himself.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” said Ireland, who has served 13-plus years in office. It was a time of personal growth, he said, and he learned valuable lessons about the importance of individuals in a democracy. “You have to participate in your own rescue,” Ireland said. You can’t wait for a St. Bernard to show up with a keg of brandy, he said – you have to be proactive. “Every election is going to be decisive,” he said. “If you screw it up, it’s hard to unscrew.”But it is just that vitality, he said, and a population of “overeducated, hardworking, public-minded people” in Pitkin County that has made it all worthwhile to him.
Since his 1993 appointment, he has stood to election three times and survived three recall attempts with an average 60 percent margin of victory.Mick seemed to wear his commission lightly, showing up to meetings in cycling gear and a helmet and injecting his own brand of humor, but he was all business.”Do we have any additions to the agenda besides making fun of me?” Ireland asked.Wednesday’s proclamation told of his rise “from dishwasher to bus driver to newspaper reporter to lawyer to county commissioner while coaching ladies softball, being a devoted uncle, athlete and elections guru.” But Ireland countered that it was more of a “downhill slide” and said that getting his real estate license would be the next step down. (He promised not to go lower and peddle drugs to make the descent complete.)
“This is not a sad day for me. It’s a happy day for me because I’m finally done,” he said, but dropped a comic hint to a radio reporter covering his last meeting that he might run for mayor. “I’ll miss the people,” he said of his coworkers and county staff.”There will be many storms, many summers and many winters before we’ll find a commissioner like Mick Ireland,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.Ireland will officially hand over his duties to Richards on the steps of the county courthouse Jan. 9.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.