Craig native elected Loveland’s mayor after years of teaching, military service |

Craig native elected Loveland’s mayor after years of teaching, military service

Collin Smith

— Although he is now 62 and hasn't lived in Moffat County since he graduated from high school in 1965, Craig native Cecil Gutierrez never forgets.

Even when the newly elected Loveland mayor sits down with other city officials to discuss cash incentives for new businesses, Gutierrez remembers family, friends and three band teachers who made it possible for him to become what he is today:

• An almost 27-year veteran of the Army.

• A 29-year public school servant.

• A one-term Loveland City Council member who was elected mayor in November 2009.

• More than that, a successful father and educator and an involved community member.

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"Between my family and my teachers, they made me," Gutierrez said.

There was elementary school band teacher Irene Gibbons.

"She took some personal interest in me and provided me with opportunities early on that got me motivated in music," Gutierrez said.

There was junior high band director Byron Gillette.

"I learned a lot from him," Gutierrez remembered. "A lot of personal things, like how humor in the classroom is very important. It helps reach students, which I tried to do in my own band classes."

Lastly, there was high school band director Vern Davis.

"I learned a lot of lessons from him on the dedication it takes to be an outstanding band director and teacher, and what it means to reach students," Gutierrez said.

Those three so inspired him as a boy, Gutierrez added, that he went to Western State College in Gunnison immediately after high school and earned a bachelor's degree in music.

"The idea of being a teacher really came out to me," he said. "I have to credit three teachers from Craig who were very important in my life for that."

One of the most important things they did was judge him by his merit, Gutierrez said, not with labels.

"I encountered some of that issue, prejudice, but I have to tell you, there were more people supportive of me than there were detractors," he said. "My teachers didn't look at race. They looked at what I was capable of. I will always be grateful for the attention they gave me."

As much as Gutierrez credited those around him for his life's successes, his sister, Dorothy Tabor, who still lives in Craig, said his tireless ambition never gave her any doubt he would make something of himself.

"He was very smart," she said. "He was always busy with something. He worked all through high school, and he was always busy with band."

It seems not much has changed, Tabor added about her brother's newfound political career, though his family was surprised when he first ran for Loveland City Council in 2007.

"He's a pretty committed person," she said. "When he sets his mind to something, he sticks with it. We're waiting for him to run for president now."

Gutierrez's political life is as surprising to himself as his family. Through 29 years as a band teacher and director, he never envisioned seeking public office.

"I can't say that was what I was passionate about at the time," he said, laughing. "At the time, I was more passionate about making good bands."

Part of the reason he started campaigning was that he wasn't a politician, someone who planned to make a career out of getting votes and moving from office to office in a continuing quest to climb the ladder.

Gutierrez said he wanted to help change things — make city government more open to the public, make sure cash incentives offered to new businesses came with sufficient expectations on the back end — and he thought the leadership skills he learned through a life of military service and educating Loveland's youth might help him be the person he thought his community needed.

"If you see something that's not right, then step forward to change it," he said. "That's part of what makes this country what it is. If you don't try to do it yourself, then you can't expect someone else to do it."

Life is something of a constant ascension to Gutierrez. Not to the top of the pile, but a continuous stream of learning opportunities; a relentless push to use what one knows to then know more, and a drive to put those experiences to good use.

"I think all the life skills that a person has are brought to bear, regardless of what leadership position you're in," he said. "I've been fortunate to have such good teachers, a supportive family, those experiences in the military that helped me. I had great experiences in Craig, and the community was always really supportive."

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