Tayyara leaves behind a legacy | CraigDailyPress.com

Tayyara leaves behind a legacy

Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara, 67, dies Saturday in Craig

Bridget Manley

— Holding public office wasn’t just Saed Tayyara’s pastime or just another bullet point on his resume.

It was a hallmark of his life.

Now, Tayyara’s family members and colleagues mourn the passing of the man and the public servant.

Tayyara, 67, died shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday in Craig.

Despite having been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in February 2007, Tayyara ran for and won a second term as Moffat County district 2 commissioner.

His daughter, Lisa Tayyara Coffman, 39, believes his passion for the position may have been what helped him exceed doctors’ initial predictions that cancer would overtake him within a year.

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“I think the thing that kept him going for the last two years was serving as (county) commissioner and serving the people of Moffat County,” she said.

History of a public servant

Tayyara emigrated to the U.S. from Syria in 1963 and became an American citizen in 1972. He came to Craig several years later, opening a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Craig in 1975.

But it was as a politician, not a restaurateur, that he left his mark on Craig. During the next 30 years, Tayyara would forge a political career that spanned periods of boom and bust.

In the late 1970s, Tayyara, a Republican, was elected a Craig City Council member. His election came at a time when Craig was seeing unprecedented growth following an energy industry boom in the region.

“We spent most of our time putting out fires and keeping up with the growth,” said Jerry Thompson, who served as mayor from the mid-1970s to 1981.

He remembered Tayyara as a councilman who took his responsibility seriously.

“Saed just really cared,” he said. “He did his homework. He always came to meetings prepared.”

As a city council member, Tayyara also spoke frequently with citizens to understand their needs and made an effort to hear both sides of controversial issues, he added.

Tayyara served three terms as mayor, beginning in 1981. Subsequent terms followed in 1989 and 1991. During his time in office, he inspired others to enter public office.

Craig resident Tony St. John was one.

Until Tayyara encouraged him to run for city council, St. John never would have considered any public office, he said.

Eventually, though, St. John ran for, and won, a seat on city council during Tayyara’s last term as mayor.

“During the time that I served on City Council with Mayor Tayyara, you would not find a more dedicated individual to his community, to the city and the county,” St. John said. “He always believed in Craig, Colo. He would do anything he could to better Craig, Colo.”

St. John remembered Tayyara maintaining a positive outlook even after Craig’s economy suffered with an energy industry slump in the 1980s.

Tayyara also inspired current Mayor Don Jones.

Several years before he ran for city council in 1995, Jones discussed his plans with Tayyara.

Jones was most inspired by Tayyara’s commitment to his constituents.

“He was dedicated to the community,” he said, “in all aspects.”

“I would say his No. 1 : goal was to get the city and the county to work together,” said Bob Sweeney, former Craig Daily Press publisher.

Following his passion

In 2004, Tayyara and fellow Republican Tom Gray were elected freshmen county commissioners.

Gray was struck by Tayyara’s appreciation for the American political system.

“The one thing that always came through was how thankful he was he lived in a country where anyone could get involved in government,” he said.

Tayyara stood in support of fiscally responsible government and property rights, Gray said.

The late commissioner, who played on the Syrian national soccer team as a youth, also spearheaded a project to install two additional soccer fields at Loudy-Simpson Park. Tayyara said he thought the fields would offer a positive pastime for area children.

He was didn’t hesitate to support causes he believed in.

At the same time, Tayyara also was able to weigh multiple views of an issue before making a decision, said Tom Mathers, district 3 county commissioner.

Tayyara made a point of becoming involved in local groups, including Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, and reporting their progress to the commission.

But, above all, Tayyara was dedicated to the country that had opened its arms to him.

“I’d never met a man that was so American,” Mathers said. “He lived the American dream.”

Final office

In November, Moffat County voters again selected Tayyara, who ran unopposed in the general election for a second term as district 2 county commissioner.

He planned to see renovations at the Moffat County Public Safety Center happen and wanted the county to continue investing in its roads.

Tayyara also intended to see new soccer fields completed. After the November election, he said completing the new fields would be his most important goal.

Although started, that dream wasn’t realized. The two new soccer fields await finishing touches.

Still, the project he supported could become more than a place where youths go to practice the sport Tayyara loved as a boy.

They could become a memorial to the man who helped make them possible.

In the past, Gray said, residents have asked whether the county will name the soccer fields after Tayyara.

“I certainly think that would be appropriate,” he said.

As of Sunday night, a funeral service had not been scheduled for Tayyara.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com