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Moffat County 20 Under 40: Matt Hammer — Coming to the rescue

As a member of Craig Fire/Rescue, Matt Hammer is part of a team that provides essential emergency response to the community.

“I really enjoy helping others in need,” he said of this service to the community.

“Matt received rookie of the year, and the following year, he received firefighter of the year. He is very committed to serving our community!” said Corrie Ponikvar, who nominated Hammer for recognition.

Hammer also continues a legacy of work in the coal industry as a maintenance planner/scheduler at Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station, but his most important job title is father.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Hammer to ask about his career and community involvement.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve? 

Matt Hammer: I would like to help portray a better image for our youth. Being a parent has really opened my eyes to what our youth are exposed to and how much a positive role model can influence their well-being.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I would like to see myself continuing in a successful career and raising my family in this great corner of the state known as Moffat County.

Who's your hero and why?

I would have to say that my hero is my daughter, Kylee Jo. She will be 7 years old this year, and since her birth, she never ceases to amaze me with the new things she learns and how she has so much compassion for people at such a young age. It really goes to show that there really is more to life than what is going on around you every day. Somedays, I wish we could all go back to having such an innocent and unpersuaded personality.

“Of all of the places I have been, Moffat County sets itself apart in so many ways: the natural beauty of the area, the never-ending outdoor activities that are literally in your backyard.”

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

For the most part, I believe that my generation wants to bring new ideas to the table rather than stick with the old "if it isn't broken, do not fix it" ideology. This has its pros and cons, depending on the situation.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

Of all of the places I have been, Moffat County sets itself apart in so many ways: the natural beauty of the area, the never-ending outdoor activities that are literally in your backyard. I love the small-town feel, as I am not much of a city person, and being able to drive a few minutes to get to work or go to the store versus having to deal with rush hour traffic to come and go anywhere.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

During the summer months, I enjoy camping when I can get away, but most of all, I am always looking forward to winter in order to take advantage of the limitless snowmobiling opportunities that Moffat County has to offer.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

I have been reading a lot on the movement to reduce carbon emissions throughout the state. Previously, I was under the mindset that there is absolutely no way that we will be able to provide the necessary power with our leadership wanting to drastically reduce or even eliminate coal power. However, after researching and really understanding what our lawmakers, unfortunately, want to move towards, I now see that there is a very real possibility that the coal industry can be heavily impacted by this movement.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in Moffat County?

I think the industry I work in, the coal industry, lies in a very gray area right now and is a huge target for lawmakers and environmentalists. Do I have faith that this industry will still has a valuable future? Absolutely! It remains our job to continue doing what we can to make them realize that coal is an essential resource for not only our economy, but the entire state, as well.

If you could change one thing about Moffat County, what would you change and why?

I do not think I would like to change anything about Moffat County however I would like to see the community and visitors take advantage of what Moffat County has to offer in itself. Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter, there are activities for all ages and abilities to enjoy.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Brandi Meek — Committed to helping safeguard freedom

Moffat County “20 Under 40” honoree Brandi Meek, who serves as law office manager at Keller Law LLC, as well as secretary of the Colorado GOP, has lived in Craig for 16 years and says she has no plans of leaving any time soon.

She says her generation is intimately concerned with preserving the freedoms upon which the United States of America was built and solving the problems that threaten those freedoms for posterity.

She adds she is particularly focused on gaining greater representation for Western Slope residents, who face very different problems and issues than people living on the Front Range.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Meek to learn her insights on the changing political environment and why she chose to make her home in Moffat County.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Brandi Meek: I would like for people to be more informed regarding what their government is doing. It's important, not just to you, but to your children and someday, your grandchildren. If we give away freedoms and liberties now, even if they are little, future generations will not have them.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope that my children (who will be grown then) are kind and moral men with a strong sense of self, but also humility. If I've done that, I will have succeeded with my life. I will still be pushing for freedom and working to protect our liberties. I would consider holding public office if it was the right time for my family and the right time in my life. That is, if I haven't found a way of having greater impact by then.

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?

In recent past, I've been associated with the Moffat County GOP, as well as the Yampa Valley Young Professionals. After seeing that decisions impacting our way of life were being made by those in Denver who had no idea who we are, I shifted focus to the statewide level. While I live and work in Moffat County, I spend many of my weekends trying to represent the Western Slope of Colorado, where there needs to be more representation. I've attended meetings for various organizations within Moffat County, and I love to support local fundraisers that are doing great work in our community.

“Often, when traveling the state, I am asked why I don't move. Then, I show them a photo of a Moffat County sunset. Not only are we 40 miles from Steamboat and all of the trails and fine dining you could desire, but the same distance west-northwest takes you to some of the most untouched land with natural beauty and wild horses. Moffat County is quiet, and you have room to breathe. There's just enough of the west still alive here.”

Who's your hero and why?

My heroes are hands-down my parents. They believe that you should do what you believe is right, always. They taught by example the importance of honesty and the value of hard work, but also the importance of family and a work-life balance. They impressed that everyone's opinion is to be valued, and not to be intimidated by anyone, regardless of what job they may have. They love with 100 percent and show true devotion to one another.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

My generation lives in the moment more so than previous generations. We value experiences more and ownership of material belongings less. We've also been at war in the Middle East our entire adult lives. We haven't seen the strong and financially stable America that the previous generation recalls. We are plagued with student loan debt and a crippling national debt. It will be up to our generation to tackle these issues before they overwhelm us.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

My family moved to Craig in 2002. Often, when traveling the state, I am asked why I don't move. Then, I show them a photo of a Moffat County sunset. Not only are we 40 miles from Steamboat and all of the trails and fine dining you could desire, but the same distance west-northwest takes you to some of the most untouched land with natural beauty and wild horses. Moffat County is quiet, and you have room to breathe. There's just enough of the west still alive here. Plus, Moffat County residents will smile and wave at you, and men hold doors open for women. Moffat County has a charm to it.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

We love to play in Moffat County! We hike and spend a lot of time at Elkhead and Freeman in the summer. In the winter, we snowshoe and have snowball fights. There is nothing better than being in the middle of nowhere where you can see the stars and when, occasionally, a bit of the northern lights are visible, or finding petroglyphs left behind by cultures of the past and embracing that our history is still very much a part of Moffat County.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

I'm currently reading "Judicial Fortitude," by Peter Wallison (his new book). Peter's wife, Frieda, has been a colleague of mine for a number of years, which was how I came to begin reading Peter's work. Peter has a long and impressive resume, including being White House counsel for Ronald Reagan. This particular book is about the shift toward legislating from the bench as our courts are increasingly taking over the job of the legislature nationally. I've gained a new insight as to how far we've drifted from the checks and balances system that our founding fathers envisioned when they formed this great nation on the revolutionary idea of a constitutional republic.

If you could change one thing about Moffat County, what would you change and why?

Honestly, we cannot continue to approach elections as we have in the past. The state needs the votes of rural Colorado citizens including those from Moffat County. What impacts us at home is decided by statewide elected officials. Our voice may not be as big as other counties, but we can be a mighty voice.

What else would you like readers to know?

Our community has great pride in the industries that exist within our region. I saw that pride when our community came together to send overwhelming comments regarding the attack on Colowyo and with the boycott of New Belgium beer (I still can't bring myself to order a Fat Tire). I would like to see that pride broaden more into pride of property and of more community cohesiveness. Reading the police blotter shows that, too often, we are quick to turn in our neighbor when maybe all they need is a little neighborly help.

I'm incredibly humbled and honored to be included among the other great men and women being recognized within our community. If I have one message to readers, it's not to limit yourself. When called to do something, do it.  You have no idea where it will take you or how great your impact may be!

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Audrey Anna Masterson — Lender with heart of gold

Navigating the process involved with a home loan can be challenging, but helping customers through that process gives Yampa Valley Bank mortgage loan originator Audrey Anna Masterson a great deal of satisfaction.

“Sometimes, home loans can seem intimidating or complex. I am always striving to improve my knowledge and abilities to help each of my customers navigate the home loan process as seamlessly and as painlessly as possible. I want to be their person they call for all things home-loan related,” she said.

"I feel that Audrey Anna is a deserving candidate to be recognized in 20 under 40 because of her continued support of numerous organizations and nonprofits, commitment to her work and community, and contagious love of Moffat County," said her co-worker, Yampa Valley Bank credit analyst Ashley Kawcak, who nominated her.

“I love Moffat County, and most everyone I know does, too,” Masterson said.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Masterson to ask about her career and community involvement.

Craig Press: If you could change one thing about Moffat County, what would you change and why?

Audrey Anna Masterson: What I would like to see changed are the actions of those few who don't love it. No community is perfect, and everyone is entitled to their opinions, but as responsible community members, we all owe it to ourselves and each other to step up and find a way to be part of the solution.

What problem would you like to solve?

Many problems that exist in the world keep me up at night, but the thing that I know I can do on a personal level is to be a solid resource for my customers.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In therapy, because I'll have a teenage daughter. I'm kidding. She's a wonderful little person. The actual 10-year plan includes keeping my health a top priority, being the best lender I can be, continuing to improve our financial picture, increasing our cow herd, and enjoying my time with my family.

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?

I come from a long line of volunteers. It's something I really enjoy. Currently, I serve on the Moffat County United Way Board of Directors, am a member of the AJ Chapter of PEO, I help with the Moffat County Junior Livestock Sale, and am involved in St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. I also just completed my term with the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors.

“I'm really honored to have received this nomination. I can think of lots of people that deserve recognition for the great things they do day in and day out. I'm proud to work and volunteer alongside them all.”

Who's your hero and why?

My grandparents. I can't pick just one. All four are brave, loyal, witty, wonderful souls. They're philanthropists, farmers, soldiers, students, immigrants … just a really great mix of role models for us growing up. They all saw opportunity here, and with hard work, they built lives to be proud of. I miss the three that have passed away every single day and know how lucky we are to be able to continue to make great memories with my grandmother, Audrey. Her birthday was on Jan. 31, so if you see her, give her a little shout-out.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

I know this is cliché, but I really do feel like we're lucky to have had an analog childhood but can still be successful and fully engaged in the fully digital working world of today. I think it allows us to connect with and appreciate many different generations easily.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

My family is here, and they mean the world to me. I also had people here in Moffat County that believed deeply in my abilities to thrive in the finance world. They gave me opportunities to jump-start and, a decade later, restart my finance career path. I'm thankful for their faith in me and would choose Moffat County all over again, no doubt!

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

Our livestock keep us pretty busy when we're not working. Even though sometimes it's exhausting and makes taking an actual vacation a challenge, we wouldn't have it any other way. We also try to spend as much time at the Yampa and camping as much as we can during the summer. The river is my favorite place to just sit and be at peace.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

Ruby Payne's “Bridges Out of Poverty — Strategies for Professionals and Communities” was a real eye-opener. I learned so much from this book. It was recommended by the staff at United Way for the board to read, so we made a little book club out of it. It really opened my eyes to what some of the true and often misunderstood challenges are for people in poverty and why what some might think should be an easy solution isn't always so.

The tyranny of poverty is truly a force to be reckoned with. The book was heartbreaking and enlightening but also empowering, because it helped the board build on our existing framework so we can most effectively support the many educational, health-based, and resource-building programs the United Way is part of.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in Moffat County?

The future looks bright for Yampa Valley Bank. The staff is amazing and have definitely earned the Best of Moffat County Award for the past nine years. We're set up for success.

What else would you like readers to know?

I'm really honored to have received this nomination. I can think of lots of people that deserve recognition for the great things they do day in and day out. I'm proud to work and volunteer alongside them all.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Justin Kawcak — Investing in the people of Craig, Northwest Colorado

From his profession to his volunteer activities, Craig native Justin Kawcak is investing in his community.

“My wife, Ashley, and I moved here in 2015 to start a business. As a Craig native, Moffat County has always been home. I enjoy the small town atmosphere, outdoors, and people in this community. Having so many friends and family here makes it easy to stay,” said Kawcak, who recently became a registered sales associate for LPL Financial.

Kawcak was nominated by his wife, Ashley Kawcak, who said of her husband, "I feel that Justin is a perfect fit to be recognized in ’20 Under 40′ because of his involvement with different organizations and his drive to grow businesses of and relationships with other young professionals within Moffat County."

The Craig Press recently caught up with Kawcak to ask about his career, his recreational pursuits, and his thoughts on living in a small community.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?
Justin Kawcak: As a community, we need more activities and infrastructure to recruit and retain young professionals in Moffat County.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Right here in Craig, continuing my financial services career with LPL Financial, enjoying time with my family and friends, traveling, and just enjoying life. I have been professionally securities licensed for seven years and truly love what I do and where I do it.

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?
I have had an opportunity to work with some great organizations in this community, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors of Moffat County United Way, serving as a local area leader and chair of the Golf Tournament Committee for Bear River Young Life, and as a current member of the Yampa Valley Young Professionals. I am also a current member of the Board of Directors for the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and a current member of the Craig Kiwanis Club where I was past club president.

Who's your hero and why?
My parents, Candi Miller and Kenny Kawcak, have always been my heroes. My mom has always been my biggest fan and supporter. She continuously demonstrates kindness, compassion, integrity, and the importance of family. My dad taught me the importance of hard work, and I'm sure I get my sense of humor, drive, and public speaking abilities from him.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?
Our generation is hungry for opportunities and success. Despite being stereotyped as lazy and infatuated with avocado toast (which I have never tried), we are driven to work hard and dedicate ourselves to constant improvement. Craig's current group of young people should instill everyone with a reinvigorated feeling of excitement for our community's future.  This group is caring, involved, and devoted to becoming as knowledgeable and efficient as possible for their chosen professions.

“Some things will never change. People will always appreciate a handshake and need a professional to turn to for financial guidance and advice; someone willing to devote their time and energy to their profession. Helping people work towards their financial goals and objects, with their best interest in mind, is at the heart of everything we do.”

What do you do for play in Moffat County?
I enjoy golfing, camping, and all the outdoor activities that Moffat County has to offer.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

One of my more recent books was, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. Towards the end of the book, the author discusses the significance of a meaningful life and devoting yourself to meaningful work. This book gave me a sharpened focus on being the best I can be in all I partake in. This renewed focus will continue to add value to my life and the lives of those around me.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in Moffat County?

Some things will never change. People will always appreciate a handshake and need a professional to turn to for financial guidance and advice; someone willing to devote their time and energy to their profession. Helping people work towards their financial goals and objects, with their best interest in mind, is at the heart of everything we do. Our team will always be devoted to the people we serve, the community we call home, and will continue to be as educated, friendly, and helpful as possible. We will need to continuously keep pace with technological trends, constantly be reviewing ways of improving, remain competitively priced, and remain knowledgeable in an ever-evolving financial services industry.

If you could change one thing about Moffat County, what would you change and why?
Supporting local businesses and recruiting/retaining young professional are the two items that I feel are most important for this community to continue to focus and improve upon.

What else would you like readers to know?

The real credit should go to our great team at LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. We have great people in our office and strive to do our best day in and day out. I would also like to thank my wife, Ashley. She is the rock of our family. Thank you to Craig Press for recognizing me in this special publication. I am humbled and appreciative of the recognition. This community is a great place to call home, and I am looking forward to working with this community for years to come.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Jesse Joe Arthurs — An honor to serve in times of loss

Moffat County “20 Under 40” honoree Jesse Arthurs says he's frequently been asked through the years what led him to choose a career working with grieving families who are going through the worst times of their lives.

The answer, he says, is simple: He chooses to devote his life spreading love and joy because he sees it as a way to truly make a positive difference in the lives of others.

One of his favorite quotes, he says, comes from Maya Angelou, who wrote: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Through helping to shepherd people through the darkest times in lives, he says, he hopes to make a lasting and positive difference in the lives of his friends and neighbors.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Arthurs and asked him about his job, his community, and his hopes for the future.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Jesse Arthurs: If I could solve one problem in Moffat County, it would be to fix the lack of community engagement. It is too easy to take the backseat and allow only a portion of our community citizens to make a difference in Moffat County. We should take pride in the community that we love.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself owning Grant Mortuary and continuing to honor and celebrate the lives of Moffat County and surrounding communities. I love to help people through the loss of a loved one. It is an honor to serve my community in such a profound way.

“Over the years, I have been asked many times, how can you work in a mortuary with grieving families everyday? The answer is simple for me. If I can spread guidance and hope to a family during a difficult time in their lives, I know I am making a difference, and that God is proud of the work I’m doing.”

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?

I am involved in the Craig Rotary Club, where I have made lifelong friendships with other Moffat County citizens. I have also volunteered serving food at the St. Michael's Soup Kitchen when I am able. In February, I look forward to serving on the Moffat County Child Fatality Prevention Review Team.

Who's your hero and why?

I would honestly say that my hero/mentor would have to be Owen Grant. I have learned so much from him over the last 20 years, and I respect and admire the business that he built in Craig. Owen is a very honorable man and I know that Moffat County appreciates the services he has provided over the years. I hope some day, someone will say the same thing about me.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

I believe my generation consists of many hard-working individuals. We watched our parents (Baby Boomers) work hard to provide for their families. My generation was also introduced to the world of the internet, which we all know has been a great source to reach clientele. I believe that sets my generation apart from others.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

I chose Moffat County, because my family settled here (Axial Basin) in the early 1950s. I really enjoy living in a community where I grew up and where my grandparents worked hard to make a living. Also, my parents and five siblings also live and work here, so it is nice to be close to my family.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

To be honest, I do not have a lot of time for play. When I do, I’ve enjoyed going to the gym, going for walks with my dogs and spending time at the park with my family.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote truly speaks to my heart because, no matter what I’ve said or done, what matters most is the way I make people feel. I love to smile and show love to everyone I come in contact with every day. We never know what someone else is going through in the life, so I choose to spread a little joy.

What kind of future do you see for your industry or career in Moffat County?

In my career, I see funerals being held less often. We live in a very busy society and a lot of people do not see the value of funerals and the closure that it brings to family and friends. My job is to help families honor their loved ones in a respectful and dignified way.

If you could change one things about Moffat County what would you change and why?

If I could change one thing about Moffat County it would be to save our library. I go to the library on a weekly basis, so I would hate to see the doors close. I believe it is one of the greatest assets a community can own and support. Let’s continue to promote to our younger generations that they have access to a wealth of knowledge right in Moffat County.

What else would you like readers to know?

I chose the funeral industry at a very young age. Over the years, I have been asked many times, how can you work in a mortuary with grieving families everyday? The answer is simple for me. If I can spread guidance and hope to a family during a difficult time in their lives, I know I am making a difference, and that God is proud of the work I’m doing.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Amanda Arnold — A passion for community health

Craig native Amanda Arnold has made a career out of her passion for helping others. From her tenure as executive director of Moffat County United Way, to her current role as director of quality and people operations for Northwest Colorado Health, to her numerous volunteer and service roles, Arnold is a prime example of a Moffat County native returning to her hometown to try to better the community.

The Craig Press caught up with Arnold to ask a few questions about her career, her home life, and her philosophy of community.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Amanda Arnold: I would solve the lack of access to behavioral health services, which continues to be a major problem in Moffat County. The shortage of behavioral health providers impacts the timeliness in which our community members in need are able to access care. Behavioral health is just as vital to a person's overall wellbeing and quality of life as physical health. Additionally, the mind and body are connected, which means that our thoughts, feelings, and actions can affect the quality of our physical health.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself excelling in my career at Northwest Colorado Health. I believe in the mission of our organization, which is to improve the quality of life for all Northwest Colorado residents by providing comprehensive health resources and creating an environment that supports community wellness. I have always had a passion for health care, which is why I pursued an education in health care management. I also have a passion for helping people, which is why I enjoyed the work I did as the executive director of Moffat County United Way. The work we do at Northwest Colorado Health combines those two passions. I believe I can make a difference in my community and continue to help people. I also see myself as an avid volunteer in 10 years. I enjoy volunteering and giving back to my community. My family will continue to be a priority to me. Finally, I will continue to support my husband and children in whatever they are pursing in 10 years.

“We are the generation of change. We have seen changes in technology, the way we do business, the needs of the communities, and changes within ourselves. With all of the obstacles we face, we adapt, overcome, and inspire ourselves and those around us.”

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?

I am currently involved in and volunteer for Connections 4 Kids, Christmas 4 Kids, and the Community Kitchen. Over the last couple of years, I have also been part of the Holiday Drive, Communities That Care, Moffat County Human Resource Council, and the Moffat County Self Sufficiency Committee. I have also served on several boards, including the Yampa Valley Gives Board, the Connections 4 Kids Board, and the Advancing Bridges National Board.

I believe in volunteering and being an active part of your community, as it provides vital assistance to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community. There have been several times where I have seen something happen that would have been impossible without several people who were willing to help. One of those times was when Northwest Colorado hosted Rural Philanthropy Days in Moffat County. I was the co-chair of the conference, along with Kate Nowak. We had so many people, businesses, and nonprofit funders volunteer to help make the event a success and to provide local nonprofits training, as well as the opportunity to network with funders. The work of many volunteers led to our region bringing in more grant funds from the Front Range to fulfill community needs.

Who's your hero and why?

My mom is and always has been my hero. She raised me, as well as my two sisters, as a single mother, while working very hard to provide for us. She is strong, dependable, caring, and would do anything for her children. She worked hard in times of struggle to make sure we had what we needed. I have seen her overcome several obstacles and come out the other side with her head held high. She supports me, and the decisions I make, showed me that success comes from hard work, and she inspires me and taught me to believe in myself always. She is inspirational and always puts others before herself. She would help anyone in need, which is where I believe my passion for helping people came from.

One time in high school, I agreed to watch my friend's baby. That evening, she did not return to pick up her child. She was overwhelmed with all that being a mother required but was not mature enough to handle it. My mom stepped up and said we could take care of the child for a few months to give the young mother some time to find her way.

I will always be in awe of how my mom handled that particular situation. She is so committed to her family and would do anything for her grandchildren including being a taxi to practice and activities. I am proud of what my mom has accomplished and of the person she helped me become.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

We are the generation of change. We have seen changes in technology, the way we do business, the needs of the communities, and changes within ourselves. With all of the obstacles we face, we adapt, overcome, and inspire ourselves and those around us.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

I grew up in Moffat County, left for three years to attend college and moved back. Growing up, I was adamant that I would not live here as an adult. It is funny how our opinions change as we grow and mature.

After college, I married my husband, Daniel Arnold. He grew up in Meeker. At that point, we both agreed that we wanted to raise our children in a smaller community that was near the mountains so we could enjoy the outdoors. We chose to live in Craig.

I am so happy that we made that decision so many years ago. I love my community. My husband and I both have great jobs that we enjoy. My children enjoy attending school here and are involved in local sports, such as Parks and Rec football and basketball, as well as gymnastics.

Family is definitely another reason we chose this community. We have a lot of family nearby who step in to help with the kids. We are lucky to have family nearby and we are lucky to be able to call this community home.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

I absolutely love being outdoors with my family. We enjoy going camping, riding the four wheelers, and taking a drive in the mountains to enjoy the fall colors. In the summertime, I am all about s'mores around the campfire and playing in the creek. In the winter months, I am all about sitting by the fireplace and watching it snow all cozy and warm. We are lucky to live so close to the mountains so we can easily access them to play and have fun!

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

A book that I read recently that changed the way I think is called, "The First 90 Days." This book is about transitioning into new leadership positions, common pitfalls new leaders encounter, and tools and strategies to avoid them. This book really helped me set a plan for entering my new role at Northwest Colorado Health.

The book shares a lot about how to lead your team and how to be the example of what you expect. I believe as a leader it is important to listen and learn before any changes are implemented. You need the knowledge about why things are being done the way they are before you can decide what needs changed or modified. The book also reinforced what I already knew and believed, which is that it takes teamwork to be successful. A group of people can accomplish so much more than any one person alone.

What kind of future do you see for your industry or career in Moffat County?

The health care industry is complex and always changing, although sometimes slow moving. One area of change is pay for performance, which provides financial incentives to clinicians for achieving better health outcomes. Pay for performance systems usually measure process outcomes, such as measuring blood pressure, lowering blood pressure, or counseling patients to stop smoking.

In the traditional "fee for service" model, doctors are paid a set amount regardless of patient outcomes. The health care industry may be changing and evolving, but my hope is that these changes mean better outcomes for patients. Because of our aging population, the need for health care and additional health care providers will increase. Rural areas struggle to recruit providers, which is a concern because of the increased and growing need for healthcare.

If you could change one things about Moffat County what would you change and why?

One thing I would like to see in Moffat County is more OHV trails. As I stated before, my family and I really enjoy exploring the outdoors. Because Moffat County does not offer very many trails, we enjoy visiting Rio Blanco to ride their trails. We have such beautiful country all around us. I think that by developing more trails locally, we could attract tourists to our community, as well as enjoy them ourselves.

What else would you like readers to know?

Through my position at Moffat County United Way as well as at Northwest Colorado Health, I have seen the impact that monetary donations have on our community. We have amazing nonprofits who do wonderful work making a true impact on the people they serve. They are not able to do what they do without monetary donations. They are true stewards of the funding they receive and many times struggle to have enough to help the population they strive to serve. I would like you to consider donating to a local nonprofit to help them help people who need support in our community.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Justin Stokes — Life as a good neighbor

Like a good neighbor, insurance agent Justin Stokes finds it’s important to contribute to the community.

“I’m a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church participates in a lot of volunteer work throughout the community, which I try to be a part of. Also, for State Farm Insurance, I host and sponsor many events throughout the year that the community can come out and enjoy,” he said.

Stokes was nominated by Nichole Stokes who wrote, “He is 29 and has owned his State Farm agency here in Craig for three years. He is always trying his best to do things to support the community of Craig.”

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Justin Stokes: I would like to solve world hunger and peace, but in the world we live in, that seems to be a pipe dream. I think by volunteering and helping make a difference in the community is where it all starts. But, being an insurance agent, I would like to reduce the amount of uninsured motorists in Colorado. Colorado has one of the highest numbers of uninsured motorists in the nation, and by adopting certain laws, we could reduce the issue.

“My dad is my hero. He passed away four years ago, but it was him who taught me the value of hard work. My dad was always my harshest critic, but it was because he believed in me and saw my potential. My dad shaped me into the man I am today.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My main priority in life is my family. In 10 years, I see myself continuing to be a loving husband and father. As far as business goes, I still see myself being a part of State Farm Insurance, either by continuing to expand the business here in Moffat County or possibly working into management for State Farm corporate.

Who's your hero and why?

My dad is my hero. He passed away four years ago, but it was him who taught me the value of hard work. My dad was always my harshest critic, but it was because he believed in me and saw my potential. My dad shaped me into the man I am today.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

Being a part of the millennial generation, we get a bad rap for just about everything. This generation grew up during the Great Recession, and I think what sets our generation apart is that they value experiences over worldly possessions.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

I'm from a small town in Idaho. I enjoy living in a small community where I can raise a family. I also love the outdoors.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

I love to hunt and fish, and Moffat County has plenty of it when I find the time. Also, I'm athletic, and like to get out and play sports.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

I love to read, but I recently read a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley that says, "Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." It helped me realize what you put into life is what you get out of it.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in Moffat County?

In the future, I hope State Farm continues to be a valuable part of the community and continues to grow.

If you could change one thing about Moffat County, what would you change and why?

I would love to see a recreational center put in for the community. It's a great place for the community to get together to play sports and stay in shape. Also, it would be great to keep the kids in the community busy and out of trouble.

What else would you like readers to know?

I enjoy cooking and baking.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Ashley Kawcak — Keeping an open mind

As a millennial, Moffat County “20 Under 40” honoree Ashley Kawcak believes growing up during a time of enormous technological advances has instilled in her generation the ability to embrace change and adapt to a shifting social landscape.

As a new parent, however, she has also come to believe that what works for one person may not be right for another and that what worked today may not necessarily work tomorrow.

That's why she says keeping an open mind and fostering adaptability will be crucial moving into the future.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Kawcak with a few questions about her life, her career, and her work in the community.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Ashley Kawcak: I would love for the perspective to shift from thinking there is nothing to do in Moffat County to focusing on all of the wonderful things there are to do here. We don't have the same amenities as big cities, but we have lots of different ones to offer.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Ten years from now, I see me and my family continuing to enjoy Craig and Moffat County. Hopefully, by then our family will have grown, and we will be running around to sporting events and school activities. I hope to advance in my career and be able to volunteer more in this community.

What community organizations and volunteer work are you involved in?

I am currently the vice chair and treasurer of the Memorial Regional Health Foundation and the treasurer of the Yampa Valley Young Professionals. I also help with a few Bear River Young Life events throughout the year.

Who's your hero and why?

My mom and dad are my heroes because of the values and morals they instilled in me. As a new parent, I have come to appreciate this even more. They have constantly been my biggest supporters and have helped me achieve many of my dreams. I would not be where I am today without them and continue to look to them for support, advice, and guidance.

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

As a millennial, I feel that my generation is often underestimated. We grew up as technology saw huge advances and as social media changed the way of communicating. I feel that my generation is set apart by our ability to change and adapt with technology.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

I chose Moffat County initially for a job advancement for my husband. As I have come to love this small town, I am happy and blessed to be raising my family near close friends and family.

“As a millennial, I feel that my generation is often underestimated. We grew up as technology saw huge advances and as social media changed the way of communicating. I feel that my generation is set apart by our ability to change and adapt with technology.”

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

One of my favorite things to do in Moffat County is look at wildlife. I also enjoy camping and spending time outside (mostly when the weather is warm).

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think?

Since my son was born, I feel that all I have been reading is parenting books and blogs. The one common denominator that I have pulled from each one is that what works for someone else won't always work for you, and that's OK, and what works today won't always work tomorrow. I think this is true in all facets of our lives, not just parenting. We have to have an open mind to be able to adapt and grow in the future.

What kind of future do you see for your industry or career in Moffat County?

The banking industry is an interesting one to watch and learn about. I have heard multiple times that the brick-and-mortar bank is dying. I don't feel that this is a statement that holds true for our small town bank. When I walk into work, interacting with our customers, I am instantly made aware of how much they appreciate having a local, trustworthy bank.

If you could change one things about Moffat County what would you change and why?

If I could change one thing, it would be to have the numerous organizations in Moffat County start working together towards our same goal instead of against each other.

What else would you like readers to know?

I am happy and honored to be part of this community as a young individual. I think Craig is a great place to live, work, and raise my family.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: Kalee Voegtle — Promoting confidence, respect, discipline

Moffat County “20 Under 40” honoree Kalee Voegtle has devoted her life to working with children, but in the classroom and in the dance studio, and says she can't imagine it any other way.

As a teacher, she says she hopes to continue providing Moffat County's youth with the tools and support they need to achieve succeed in the future.

Confidence, strength, and a solid work ethic are lessons she strives to instill in her students and attributes vital to a healthy, happy life.

The Craig Press recently caught up with Voegtle to ask about her career, her guiding principles, and her work in the community.

Craig Press: What problem would you like to solve?

Kalee Voegtle: I hope to help promote self-confidence, self-respect, and discipline among students of all ages in the classroom and in the dance studio.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself continuing work in education in some fashion and teaching dance classes. I love working with kids of all ages and can't imagine a time where I am not working with kids in some way or another.

Who's your hero and why?

My mom is my hero. She is a confident, strong, hard-working woman who has shown me that I can do anything I put my mind to. She has built several businesses and has been helpful and encouraging in my journey of opening Studio V.

“As we grow, I hope to develop the other sides of a performing arts school. I would love to see Craig have a musical theater program and a place where music and voice lessons can be taught.”

What is it about your generation that sets it apart?

I think that my generation is hard-working, like many generations before it, but we have also lived with a growth in technology, which sets us apart from other generations before us. With the growth of technology, we have had the opportunity to grow our own knowledge and opportunities. We have become entrepreneurs in large numbers and created jobs that were not in existence 10 to 20 years ago.

Why did you choose Moffat County?

My husband's job as a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management brought us to Craig in 2006 for the summers until we purchased a house and moved to Craig year-round in 2010.

What do you do for play in Moffat County?

As a family, we spend a lot of time at the bowling alley. I also enjoy spending time outside in the summer visiting the parks around town. Since I enjoy learning, I like going to both the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the Wyman Living History Museum with my son and students and taking my son to the library.

What have you read lately that has changed the way you think? And how?

The most recent thing that I read was "Nine Planks to Becoming a Bridge Builder," by Tina Schuler. This book really made me conscious of the relationships that I build with students, both in my classroom and in my dance studio. I would not be able to teach students math, reading, writing, ballet, jazz, tap, or many other things if I were to neglect building relationships with my students. Students need to know that you care about them and that you have their best interests at heart.

What kind of future do you see for your industry or career in Moffat County?

I see Studio V continuing to grow as a dance studio and provide girls and boys of all ages a place to express themselves as individuals. As we grow, I hope to develop the other sides of a performing arts school. I would love to see Craig have a musical theater program and a place where music and voice lessons can be taught.

If you could change one thing about Moffat County what would you change and why?

If I could change one thing about Moffat County, I would create more places and things for kids and families to do around town. More recreational programs for kids in the winter and summer, such as cross country trails, activities on the river, an indoor pool with a slide, and more sports programs would be great. As well as places for parents to take small children that is indoors during our long cold winters.

What else would you like readers to know?

Dancing Under the Big Top, our circus-themed dance program, will be on June 8 at the Moffat County High School. All of my dancers have put in a lot of work since September to grow as dancers and are excited to showcase what they have learned in what will be a fun and enjoyable show.

Moffat County 20 Under 40: From the Editor — The future’s in good hands

In our society, millennials — members of the generational cohort born between 1981 and 1996 — often get kind of a bad rap.

Too often, we hear about how this generation was brought up to believe that everyone is a winner, that any kid who competes should get a trophy, that feelings trump logic, that instant gratification is something the rest of society somehow owes them.

Too often, we see cartoons and memes depicting millennials as self-centered infants who expect the world to be delivered to them on a silver platter, regardless of how they perform (or fail to perform).

Too often, we're told that millennials are the kids who came running back home after completing their liberal arts educations to fritter away their 20s — and sometimes, their early 30s — playing video games in their parents' basement while fostering an absolute unwillingness to accept any responsibility whatsoever for the outcomes of their choices.

But as we look at the 20 young locals we honor in the pages that follow, we wonder who the purveyors of such stereotypes were looking at when they decided to drop everyone between the ages of 23 and 38 into the same box. As we compiled the stories of Moffat County's inaugural “20 Under 40” honorees, we saw the polar opposite of what such generalizations would have us believe.

We saw hard-working, idealistic, dreamers — solid young professionals who are more than willing to become the legs undergirding those ideals and dreams. We saw their intimate involvement in the continued well-being of the community that nurtured them. We saw innovators, visionaries, people who are not afraid to become the change they want to see in the world.

It's true that most stereotypes have some basis in fact, but frankly, and in our view, the stereotypes too often used to describe this group of outstanding young people couldn't be further from the truth.

As we worked to put this section together, we were given a glimpse of the future of Moffat County — and indeed, the future of this nation and this world.

And, from what we seen, that future is in very good hands.

Jim Patterson is editor of the Craig Press. Contact him at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.