Ken Parsons contends he isn’t a typical politician.
“Usually a lot of people who are engaged in politics are not the kind of numbers-geeky kind of guy like I am,” the former college math professor said.
The 64-year-old Rangely resident has served as a Rio Blanco County commissioner since 2004.
Club 20, a large Western Slope lobbying group, recently awarded Parsons with the Dan Noble award for “outstanding public service to Western Colorado” on April 2 at its 2011 Spring Meeting.
Parsons said he thought the recognition had to do with his keen interest in regional legislative matters.
“I really dig into some of these issues and I really think that sometimes that’s very beneficial because it’s not something everybody pays the attention to detail that I do,” he said. “I think that has been an asset to Western Colorado — I’ve been able to do some good things for us.”
Parsons was in the Air Force from 1965 to 1969 and served as a ground radio equipment operator for a year-and-a-half in Vietnam.
Shortly after receiving his master’s degree in mathematics, Parsons signed on as a logging engineer for Halliburton. He later received a degree in geology and was offered a job at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, where he served as director of the petroleum technology program.
“The business is pretty cyclical and whenever it went into a downturn like that, there weren’t any jobs for the kids and so they closed the program up,” he said.
Parsons ended up teaching math and science topics at the college until 2003. He is involved with Colorado Counties, Inc., Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, the Rangely Junior College District board and Club 20.
Parsons said the last commissioner to receive the Dan Noble award from Club 20 was the late Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara.
“I unquestionably feel honored and flattered by it,” he said. “I look at some of the past people who have received it — (former) Sen. (Al) White was last year and the year before that it was commissioner Tayyara. I know that Congressmen Wayne Allard has received it in the past.
“I am very flattered — I think they have been some great public servants. That somebody would throw me into that group of individuals, well, I’m very flattered.”
Jeff Comstock, Club 20 Chairman and Moffat County Natural Resources Director, said Parsons “certainly earned this one.”
“Ken has really led the Northwest discussions when it comes to federal mineral lease payments and payment in lieu of tax payments,” he said, adding severance tax distributions to the list. “He has really represented us to a stellar degree when it comes to those kinds of issues and making sure the Northwest corner of the state … gets its fair share of those payments.”
Parsons said he would probably not seek another term as commissioner in the future, but hasn’t ruled out a run for the state legislature. Whether Parsons’ political career ends soon or not, he remains convinced public service is something everybody should participate in, he said.
“Democracy works because people spend time working at it,” he said. “I’ve heard it said before, and I truly believe it, that Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is indeed something that those of us who consider ourselves ordinary people, we have to be engaged in it otherwise you have … people from the fringes — be it left or the right —to dominate politics and I really don’t think that is good for our country.”
Comstock said one of Parsons’ distinct traits is his reserved nature.
“But don’t at all mistake that reserved-ness for not being knowledgeable and being interested in protecting the Western Slope,” Comstock said.
Parsons said his attitude toward his work as a legislator could best be summed up by a quote from Mark Twain, who said, “There is no limit to the amount of good a man can do if he just doesn’t care who gets the credit.”
“I think there is a lot of truth to that,” Parsons said. “I am really honored by this, but I really don’t care much about the spotlight.”
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