Recall a low priority in Meeker
November 11, 2005
MEEKER – The weekly newspaper in Meeker printed its first letter to the editor about the impending recall election of the 9th Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden.The letter came in this week.”Up until a couple weeks ago, nobody was talking about it,” said Mitch Bettis, the editor and publisher of the Rio Blanco Herald Times. “It’s a really heated issue on the Roaring Fork side. But none of that has dribbled over to the White River Valley.”The 9th Judicial District covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.Hundreds of letters have been published in papers in the Roaring Fork Valley. The vast majority of them have supported a recall.Bettis, who is a former publisher of The Aspen Times, said his newspaper has run several stories about the recall lately. That has spurred some conversation, Bettis said, but still not a lot. An online poll on the newspaper’s website asks, “Do you support the recall of District Attorney Truden?”As of Wednesday night, 67 percent of the 63 respondents said they did support the recall, 27 percent opposed it and 11 percent were undecided.”I’m cynical enough to believe that they’re not all from this area,” Bettis said. “There were three that were all plowed off close to each other with the same tone, suggesting it might have been the one person.”The lone letter to the editor the paper has received came from a Rangely reader and supports Truden.”We elected DA Truden,” Teresa Sims’ letter says. “Now we need to stand behind her again and let her know that our confidence in her is still there.”Sims worked on Truden’s campaign last November.Sims said she is a Truden fan because Truden has set into action the changes she promised – greater representation in Rangely, more cases filed and more convictions.”She looked around and saw that there needed to be change,” Sims said.Bettis said Truden spent a lot of time in Rio Blanco County when she was campaigning and it was a strong spot for her. “She’s not a stranger here,” Bettis said. “She comes here often and meets with the commissioners and checks in to see how things are going.”When she was elected, 69 percent of Rio Blanco County voters cast ballots for Truden in the Republican primary and 79 percent of the voting public elected her in the general election.”It seemed like everyone had a sign in their yard to elect Colleen Truden,” Bettis said.As for the recall, Bettis said he expects a low voter turnout.The last day to register to vote in the recall election is Nov. 14. Those who want mail-in absentee ballots have until Dec. 2 and carry-out absentee ballots will be distributed until Dec. 9.The county clerk has received only 10 applications for absentee ballots. The county got 193 absentee ballots back in the Nov. 1 election.”My sense is that people are generally aware that it’s going on because it’s been in the papers,” said Sandra Besseghini, an attorney in Meeker. “But it’s not something that’s on everyone’s lips.”Besseghini said that the recall may be a low priority in Rio Blanco County.”My sense, with the community in general – we’re grappling with a lot of other issues here. Problems with the pipeline. We just had a rather significant fire a couple days ago. There have been a couple very, very tragic deaths. Those things might weigh more heavily on people right now. We’re not there in Glenwood. If it were a matter of replacing our assistant district attorney, it would probably be a bigger issue,” she said.Bettis credits the new assistant district attorney, Russell Wasley, at least partially, with the county’s overall disinterest in the recall election.”Most of the people I’ve talked to consider him a very positive representative of the DA’s office,” Bettis said. “That may have diffused some of the opinion. If you believe ‘all politics are local’ – people here seem to feel like their needs are being met.”Wasley declined to comment for this story.Election a mystery to localsJackson Oviatt sat at the counter in the local cafe, Avis on the Corner, eating a bowl of the day’s special mushroom soup.He works as a chef at a hunting and fishing lodge outside Meeker and doesn’t often get the paper. He doesn’t plan to vote in the recall election.”Who?” Oviatt said. “I haven’t heard anything about it.”Just down the counter, Rick Heming said he was surprised he hadn’t heard about the recall.”I don’t know,” Heming said. “I’m active in a lot of stuff around here. I deal with the county commissioners all the time. I work for the fire district. I own a business downtown. I thought I was connected to the community – apparently not.”Goldie Veitch, Heming’s mother-in-law and the cook behind the counter at Avis, said she’d heard something just recently.”The first time I heard anything about it was just a little bit ago,” Veitch said as she assembled a line of French dip sandwiches. “I thought it was just a rumor, one of those B.S. things that go around.”Avis Loschbaugh, who owns the cafe, said she knows about the issue but probably won’t vote in the recall election.”I don’t feel like it’s really discussed around here,” Loschbaugh said. “It sounds like it’s mostly her office stuff and how she deals with people. We don’t really deal with that here.”Meeker, which is about 40 miles from Rifle, is fairly far removed from the Roaring Fork Valley, where most of the recall firestorm has been centered.Heming said that’s probably why a lot of Rio Blanco County residents haven’t heard about it.”Glenwood is a whole world away,” Heming said.