Roger Marolt: Roger This

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Mick Ireland is getting out of politics. Now you realize you’ve been taking him for granted. I don’t care if he was your political punching bag or protector – what local public figure are we going to load up with all of our partisan neediness now? Not that there won’t be somebody. There surely will be. Whoever it is, I doubt they’ll last as long as Mick.

I didn’t like Mick at first. I take that back. I liked him when he was a sports reporter for the Times and I was a high school baseball player. I was in the middle of my glory days, and his were yet to come. He hung around the cage and talked sports and wrote good stories about us. He wasn’t too much older, so you didn’t have to watch what you were saying.

I contracted a case of sudden-onset dislike for him when he started in politics about 10 years later. It wasn’t much to do with his views. I didn’t care much about that. The thing that drove my dislike was that he ran against my father for a county commissioner seat. It sounds petty, but when you think about it, how could it have been any other way? If you love your father, you’re not going to think anyone is all right if they’re opposing him, even if it is only in politics.

I’ve made amends with that. My father got out of politics, and I started looking at how the town was run differently. My instincts are often that the rules are nonsensical and capricious, with the process more resembling a Vegas variety show than what we studied in civics classes, and then I look around. Things are tightly wrapped up in a state of affairs that makes this a desirable place to be and keeps local real estate the investment to be in. Yeah, property taxes have crept up, but why shouldn’t they be on the same escalating scale as a cold beer or anything else you want to buy in town?

I’ve wondered many times what motivated Mick to do what he did for so long. As far as any of us knows, he didn’t get rich, and you know he could have. A guy with even the thinnest dishonest streak in him could have parlayed the position Mick has been in into at least a very materially comfortable resort-town existence. Instead, I think he manipulated most of his power into what he thought was good for his constituents and a few situations where he got to be a big shot at a big event for a few minutes. It’s funny that when Mick didn’t get rich, his foes berated him for being content with what they thought wasn’t very much. How often does that happen in real politics?

What no honest person in their right mind can say is that Mick didn’t fight hard for what he believed the majority of us believed in. What he endured for the cause defies any sense of reasonableness. I don’t care what anyone says – the crap he took over the past 20 years would crush the average person. Nobody thrives on that kind of criticism, and, yeah, I’m going to say it because I think it’s true – hatred.

As ugly as it is, there are people around here who hate Mick in the worst sense that word can connote. It’s not about Mick – it’s about continually losing a loud argument that everyone notices, and that makes it scarier. This is a small community that will split about 55-45 on every issue imaginable. It’s too small of a town to fight with everyone who might disagree with you. It’s much more practical to focus all that negativity on the person in charge; then we can ignore the enemy as the enemy at cocktail parties and football games. It’s mostly one-sided, too. The 55 doesn’t get too worked up over the 45’s opposition because the 45 has never carried the day around here. Unlike its words of discouragement, its ideas are yet to be a threat.

I’m going to miss Mick in office. Whether I agreed or disagreed with him, he proved that he worked hard for what he thought was right, not driven by greed or to get to some position or place that was better for him. I don’t understand what drove him, but it pushed him along an honorable path. He’s human, so at times he spoke or acted inappropriately, but that should be forgiven considering the pressure and expectations we put on him from both sides. You certainly don’t have to like a guy like that, but I’d say if you don’t respect him, there’s something you’re refusing to recognize in him.

Roger Marolt hopes to occupy a local political office on the day Hell freezes over. Contact him at