Overcoming the time crunch
Jennifer Riley balances life as a wife, mother, council member and hospital administrator
Life’s a balancing act, Jennifer Riley said.
Between her position on the administrative team at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, her seat on Craig City Council, her role as a wife and mother, and her additional community responsibilities, Riley certainly stays busy.
But, she said it’s worth every minute and each endeavor is worthwhile.
“I love Craig and I believe that Craig is a great community. … It’s nice to be able to give back,” Riley said. “And it sounds cliché, but this is a way to really demonstrate that giving back.”
Riley, 38, is married to Steve Martinson, an art teacher for Ridgeview and Sunset elementary schools, and mom to Caroline Riley, 9.
She is a Craig native who left the area for 10 years only to return and become a well-known citizen in positions of leadership and notoriety.
And it’s a role she carries quite well, Craig Mayor Don Jones said.
“She always has a positive opinion and is always looking out for the best interest of the citizens,” Jones said.
Jones helped acclimate Riley to the council when she was voted into her first elected position in April 2009.
“I was teaching her,” the mayor said. “I just thought I’d help her out.”
In many instances though, Jones said, he realized Riley was strong enough to handle herself on a council otherwise comprised of men.
“She’s not intimidated by us,” he said.
Riley said she never had reason to be.
“I do think in Moffat County there is the perception that there’s the good old boys network, but I definitely found my way into that and don’t think there were obstacles because I was a female,” she said. “I never felt there was anything I couldn’t do because I was a woman.”
And it’s not something she rests on either.
Jones described Riley as a council member who “does her homework” before council meetings, which Riley said should be expected.
“If you’re going to be effective, you have to spend the time understanding the issues and getting answers to questions,” she said.
It’s not always been easy.
In her tenure, the city council has tackled controversial issues including an investigation into the Craig Police Department, a failed lodging tax measure, a social host ordinance, regulations surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries, rent discussions over the Moffat County Public Safety Center and the handling of Craig’s urban deer population.
Moving forward with city council, Riley said she aims to continue learning about the city’s processes. She also hopes to continue to “meet the needs of the community with our declining revenue” and successfully navigate the safety center issue with Moffat County.
“The city feels compelled that all (law enforcement agencies) stay together because that’s what the voters wanted,” Riley said. “But we also want to do what’s fiscally responsible.”
Navigating through her career path the past six months hasn’t come with easy answers.
Riley, who had worked at the Moffat County Assessor’s Office since 2003 and had been chief appraiser since 2005, threw her name in the race for assessor in August as a write-in candidate. Within a month of campaigning, Riley withdrew to accept her new position as TMH’s chief of organizational excellence.
“I was sad to leave the assessor’s office,” she said. “I really thought I would work at the assessor’s office for my career.”
But her new job at the hospital comes with perks as well as challenges as Riley learns the ropes of a new industry.
“I’m very happy that I made the change,” she said.
Her plans include continuing to bridge the gap between administrators and employees, namely through monthly meetings geared toward informing the workforce about hospital happenings and hearing their questions and concerns.
“You have to share good news and bad news,” Riley said of internal and external communication.
Riley said she also hopes to carry on the movement of recruiting qualified physicians in needed specialties. Recent examples include offering chemotherapy and efforts to recruit a pediatrician.
“The hospital has stepped up to the plate to take care of the community,” Riley said. “And we’re continuing that.
“I believe in the doctors we have here. This is the facility I want to go to if I need health care.”
Riley is equally proud of the work being done by the Moffat County Libraries Board. She has served on the library board for four years and is currently the chairwoman.
“I think our library is a good example of doing a lot with very little,” she said.
Riley’s passion for improving the community also extends into her service on the Craig-Moffat County Complete Count Committee, broadband advisory committee, her position as hospital representative on The Memorial Hospital Foundation, as well as past positions on the Moffat County employee retirement and health boards.
“It just keeps life interesting,” she said of being involved.
But, it can also take a toll on her personal life, as Riley sometimes misses Caroline’s bedtime and has less time to cultivate her passion for cooking.
Jones said he knows juggling many responsibilities is a challenge, one he contends Riley handles well.
“With young kids, it’s tough. So far she’s not had a hard time with that,” Jones said. “So she manages her time well. It’s hard to be a dual, triple or quadruple person.”
Jones noted that it’s been at least a decade since city council had a female representative.
“It just changes the perspective,” Jones said. “It’s just different philosophies it seems like men and women have. It’s a good mix, I think.”
Jones affectionately calls Riley “Grasshopper,” the nickname given to the student fighter in the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu.” Jones said Riley, as the youngest city council member, keeps the other members current.
“It reminds us that things have progressed in those 40 years (since we were younger),” Jones said. “Things didn’t change overnight, they’ve been changing all the time, and we need reminded of that. … And she does a very good job of reminding us of that.”
And it’s a role Riley enjoys and does not intend to give up anytime soon.
In 10 years, as Caroline graduates high school and Riley is in a new place in life, she believes she’d still like to be a leader in her community.
“If I can get the time thing under control,” Riley said. “I will definitely still be involved.”
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