Our View: Raftopoulos, Hampton served well
What a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time, Marianna Raftopoulos and the other Moffat County commissioners were in the midst of painful cuts to balance a meager budget.
There was no shortage of criticism about the state of the county’s finances, and commissioners came under fire for cutting back or eliminating nonessential services that Moffat County residents had grown accustomed to. Spending decisions made years ago came under intense scrutiny as taxpayers questioned how the county’s reserves had dwindled to critical levels.
In the ensuing months, Raftopoulos and fellow Commissioner Les Hampton became the targets of a recall effort. Raftopoulos also filed suit against two of her detractors, saying they had potentially damaged her political and professional career with allegations of malfeasance.
Those allegations were investigated by a special prosecutor, and in his opinion, the BOCC had committed some “technical” violations of state law but had not acted maliciously. Commissioners took exception to the “technical violations” findings, even though the investigator cleared them of wrongdoing.
All in all, it was the kind of year that can turn a commissioner’s hair gray. But in their final month of elected office, Raftopoulos and Hampton can look back on their terms in office with pride.
Hampton, for one, never passed the buck on any problems that arose during his tenure. Even when some policies adopted by previous commissioners drew the ire of county residents, he didn’t blame his predecessors. He accepted the challenges of defending the county’s position and worked diligently to communicate the rationale behind controversial decisions.
Hampton and Raftopoulos were responsive public servants who maintained an open-door policy. Both were accessible. Even after making an unpopular decision, they never tried to hide from the media. We think that’s forthright and commendable.
Hampton worked earnestly with Rep. Scott McInnis to improve health care for rural veterans, not only in Moffat County, but throughout the country. McInnis’ Healthy Vets Act aims to allow vets in rural areas to receive health care in their communities without having to travel to distant Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Hampton and Raftopoulos also tried to affect national policy and weren’t shy about advancing an agenda that protected Western values — at least as they perceive them.
Although their agenda may have been questioned at times, their leadership wasn’t. They were able to push forward an ambitious fire-management plan that was recognized by state and federal agencies as a model for the country.
Earlier this week, Raftopoulos was recognized by Colorado Counties Inc. with its “Distinguished Service Award.” The award recognizes service to all Colorado counties, not just Moffat County.
Raftopoulos appreciates the validation and respect from elected officials throughout the state. She said it was a nice way to end eight years of public service, and it helped take the sting out of the low periods.
Moffat County is poised to enter 2005 with a stronger balance sheet than we had a year ago. There’s a sense of optimism about county finances, and voters elected two fiscal conservatives who ran on a platform of building the county’s reserves.
When we recall the fiscal difficulties behind us, and look ahead to a brighter future, we ought to broaden our focus. There is a bigger picture. We think Raftopoulos and Hampton can be proud of their work for our county and their dedication to a vision of its future. For their accomplishments while in office, some of which received little attention, we owe our thanks.
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