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The strengths inside

Growing, learning lifelong goals for Moffat County Commissioner

Brian Smith
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner stands in the hallway of the Moffat County Courthouse. Danner, 58, said hard work, frugality, strong faith and the ability to learn from past experiences have aided her in working with public projects and affairs.
Brian Smith

Hard work never hurt anybody.

That’s the message that was engrained into Audrey Danner from an early age growing up in rural Kansas.

The message was spoken by her father, a carpenter and locksmith, and echoed by her mother, a rural postal carrier.



It struck a chord with Danner, now a 58-year-old Craig resident and current Moffat County Commissioner. To this day, she draws on her conservative upbringing to help her manage one of Colorado’s largest counties.

“I know the value of money, I know the value of family, and I appreciate both as a part of my upbringing,” she said.



But, hard work, family and frugality aren’t the only things that have shaped Danner into one of the county’s most prominent women.

She said a strong marriage to her husband, Ron, a deep-rooted faith and numerous experiences that tested her emotionally and physically have helped her become the woman she is today.

“If there is work to be done, you do it,” she said.

Danner was born in 1952 into a Catholic family.

Growing up as the oldest of five children, she lived a life she now recognizes as rooted in conservative values.

Then, she said, it was simply what they had to do to get by.

“Just very modest means,” she said. “But, I think there were a whole lot of us raised very modestly in that generation, the 50s and 60s.”

In 1962, Danner’s family moved to Fort Collins, where they built their own home and her father developed a successful, family-run business.

“We could do that and we were all expected to help,” she said of building a home and starting a business. “You help others — that’s a part of who I am.”

She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she met Ron, who had graduated from optometry school. The two were married in 1973 and moved to Craig in 1974 to start a family of their own, possessions crammed into the back of their Chevy Vega.

Danner is the mother of two children — Rachel, 33, a Montrose physician’s assistant, and Ryan, who was 17 when he died in a car crash in 1994.

Ryan’s death was the first of many testing experiences that ultimately made Danner stronger, she said.

Simply put, Ryan’s death was “life changing.”

“That is a test on your personal strength and your marriage and how you are going to be without your child living,” she said. “It was life changing — that is the best way I can say it.”

After her son’s death, she said she began looking at things differently. She started to expand on an already growing interest in understanding and helping the community.

That interest in helping others is deeply rooted, she said.

“Ron and I have always been very involved in nonprofits and organizations here in our community,” she said. “We do that. We volunteer and serve in our community.”

An early example of that was Danner’s role in helping establish the Parents and Friends of Moffat County High School, a group that reached out to all sides of the education spectrum — community, parents and students.

The philosophy behind establishing such an organization was simple, but one she would bring with her to her next position as executive director of Yampa Valley Partners.

“If you see a need, see if there is others who agree with you and begin developing a solution to it,” she said.

For about 12 years, she led the non-profit organization in developing many new services for the area, including the regional Community Indicators Report and online tool. Her time with the organization had a profound impact on her understanding of the region, she said.

“I absolutely loved it,” Danner said. “It gave me a sense of all the communities from Oak Creek to Rangely and all those in between and the strengths and unique aspects of

each community.”

In December 2008, she was thrust into a different side of the political world.

Danner applied and was chosen to replace late Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara, who died while in office.

She said she is glad she took a chance and applied for the position.

“I knew that it was absolutely the right thing for me to apply for it,” she said.

Her time serving as commissioner, which was extended during the November 2010 general election, has made her an even stronger and knowledgeable woman, she said.

“I believe that I am getting better at looking at the complexity of an issue and understanding all the moving parts of a decision to hopefully avoid some of the unintended consequences that happen,” she said.

For the most part, Danner said being a woman in the male-dominated field of politics isn’t a point that is referenced often, or something on the minds of those who she interacts with.

That speaks to the way society is moving, she said.

“But, I can tell it is a new experience for some having a woman commissioner,” she said. “But there are many other female county commissioners around the state and nation.”

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he thinks the days of male dominance in politics are long gone. What Danner brings to the table, those qualities that make a good public servant, are the same a man would bring, he said.

“She is really a hard worker,” he said. “She pays attention to every issue that comes along, she works well with people and tries to figure out what the best way is to work with individuals.”

Aside from politics, there is another side to Danner less well-known. For the commissioner, faith, spirituality and self-understanding come together in a special place — the wilderness.

Throughout her life, she said she has had a deep connection with the outdoors as a backpacker and hiker.

When she turned 30, she decided to take a weeklong, solo Outward Bound trip into the high country surrounding Leadville.

The trip made a lasting impact.

“That was significant — to leave small children at home and to be very independent in the wilderness,” she said. “It helped me tap into strengths.”

When she turned 40, Danner trained and completed the annual Ride the Rockies cycling event. At 50, she, Ron and Rachel rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in an 18-day, 16-person trip privately organized.

“Those are extraordinary experiences that helped me realize the strengths I have inside of me and give me the time to reflect on my strengths and how I operate in the world,” she said.

Understanding who you are is key in developing the capacity for helping others, she said.

“When I know myself, and when I know that I am what I believe in, what is right for me, then I can stand up for it,” she said.

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