Council appoints CNCC dean

Hard decision between two finalists

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Council insulted by editorial

Mayor Don Jones began Tuesday's Craig City Council meeting by addressing the Daily Press editorial board's recent opinion piece on secret ballots.

The editorial requested the Council vote on Tuesday's appointment in an open record. Traditionally, the Council votes by secret ballot.

The newspaper presented inaccurate conclusions and passed them off as truth, Jones said. No one on the Council would think to appoint someone that wasn't qualified because they knew him or her, he added.

"If our newspaper would spend more time focusing on local issues, spelling errors and grammatical errors, maybe we'd have a better newspaper," Jones said.

Councilor Bill Johnston also addressed the issue.

"You should never go to war with anyone who has more ink than you have," he said. "I took that editorial as an insult and a slap in the face. We have a very open and honest forum here for anyone to say their peace. One editorial attempted to take that away."

Later in the meeting, Daily Press Publisher Bryce Jacobson addressed the Council.

"Mr. Mayor, I find it laughable that you dare criticize a business in an open meeting," Jacobson said. "We wrote an opinion - I stress the word 'opinion' - and an opinion is simply that. You have done secret ballots. It's not like we plucked this out of thin air.

Every time we run something

you don't agree with, you run right

out and blame the editorial board. It's an opinion of citizens that live inside this community. If you would just think that maybe this is an opinion that other people in the community might have, too."

Johnston wholeheartedly agreed that every citizen should be able to express his or her opinions freely, he said. The difference is that Jacobson, as publisher, can abuse that.

"You run a newspaper and you get to run your opinion and the rebuttal is difficult."

Jacobson responded that anyone is free to submit things to the newspaper. Johnston said he has never had anything he submitted denied publication.

— And then there were two.

The Craig City Council identified two finalists Tuesday night for the seat vacated by Rod Compton: Chris Nichols, former Craig Fire/Rescue chief, and Gene Bilodeau, Colorado Northwestern Community College Craig campus dean.

Eventually, Bilodeau would swear an oath and take a seat on the Council, but in the end, the Councilors did not make the final decision.

After the first round of interviews, the Council was evenly split between supporters for each.

Mayor Don Jones and councilors Ray Beck and Terry Carwile voted for Bilodeau. Councilors Byron Willems, Joe Herod and Bill Johnston voted for Nichols.

"One of the things that makes this hard is they're both qualified 110 percent," Herod said.

Without a decision, and not wanting to extend the appointment process any longer than it had been, the Council asked the candidates to step forward. They would say what separated them from the other.

The Council called Nichols first.

"For the next several years, there's going to be major issues," Nichols said. "A lot more development, a lot more construction, a lot more growth."

Nichols helped write the community development codes that require businesses to develop property in ways the city can be proud of, he said. His authorial hand in those statutes not only gives him knowledge of how the code reads, but what intent was behind the words.

When growth and building issues come up, he can help the Council understand and reconcile the dispute, he said.

The Council agreed.

"He's just an extraordinarily strong candidate," Carwile said as Nichols stepped away from the podium.

Bilodeau does not have the same background in city planning.

He does, however, have a great deal of experience fostering relationships, he said, and his commitment to communication can be an asset, he said.

"What I present to you is me," Bilodeau said. "I think so much of what is important and what is needed is not average communication, but above-average communication. I think whatever my shortcomings may be, as an individual or as a businessman, I make up for in my ability to work with people."

Again, the Council agreed.

"I worked with Gene Bilodeau through the Chamber," Jones said. "I appreciate his leadership skills and how he can smooth out ruffled feathers with disgruntled boards and people. That was the deciding factor for me."

After the second round, the Council was split once again.

But the tie didn't last for long.

As the Council debated whether it should table a decision until a later date or approve a special election - which city clerk and personnel director Shirley Seely said might cost between $8,000 and $10,000 - both candidates stepped into the fray.

Neither wanted their bid to become a public servant to cost the city that much money, they said.

Too many times people get bogged down in details, Bilodeau said. He suggested he and Nichols flip a coin to decide the outcome. Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara remembered he was first appointed to the Council in 1977 by coin flip.

"I'm not going to arm-wrestle him," Bilodeau said. "He's bigger than me."

Nichols had a different idea.

"I'll let Gene have the position," he said.

After a brief discussion outside Council Chambers with Bilodeau, Nichols approached the podium and formally resigned his candidacy.

Bilodeau will keep that seat until the next city general election in April 2009. Then, whoever wins the election would fill the remainder of Compton's term until 2011.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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