Learning curve

Commissioner-elect getting ready for first term

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Ken Parsons, commissioner-elect for Rio Blanco County, is on an intense learning mission. He wants to learn as much as he can about the county before he is sworn in, in January.

Aside from attending meetings and work sessions, he has kept himself busy gathering history and information about his new job.

"I've been to a lot of meetings and (am) trying to familiarize myself about county business," he said.

He said although it sometimes seems overwhelming, he is looking forward to his new job.

Parsons won the Republican nomination, and no one ran against him in the November election.

"I ran my campaign on making county government more efficient and effective and I'm beginning to form some ideas on ways the board can improve how we do business." he said.

Parsons said his biggest concern is that the county has no plans for the future other than a master plan for development. He said the county has no formal plans with direction.

"We need to update human resources and personnel policy," he said.

He is optimistic about the future of Rio Blanco County. He understands that some growth in population would be good for the county and that limited housing is a major deterrent for people moving into the area.

"Growth would really help both school districts immensely," he said.

He said that although revenues for the county in the short-term are looking good because of the natural gas production, oil shale development could be better for long-term financial future of the county.

"Gas and oil extractions in this area are ending but if the oil shale research actually gets funded it will be infinite."

Parsons said some estimates suggest the amount of oil shale in Pinance Basin and the Unitah Basin in Utah is the largest in the world. Research into processing oil from shale was halted in the 1980s during the recession.

Parsons taught math and science at Colorado Northwestern Community College and retired in 2003. Before that, he worked in the oil industry. He grew up in Delta and has lived in Rangely for 19 years. His wife, Shirley, teaches math at CNCC. They have two sons who graduated from Rangely High School. Aaron recently completed his bachelor's degree at Harvard and is in a master's degrees program at the University of California-Berkeley. Reid is a senior at Cornell University.

Parsons is not a stranger to public service. He's spent eight years on the Rangely RE4 district school board, leaving last November because of term limits. He also serves on the Rangely Junior College District Board of CNCC.

"These are challenging times for all Colorado government agencies, and it doesn't seem likely to improve for a while. We need to make our tax dollar go as far as possible while maintaining the highest possible level of services for our citizens."

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