This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 3, 2001

January 3, 2001 - Reflections on Gil Whitman

I have to admit that I’m a city boy, raised in a mid-size Midwest place of streets, tall trees, and lots of blue collar jobs.

Most of the time, I don’t think about that background. But when I get together with a bunch of Douglas County ranchers, I definitely feel citified, the sort of guy you wouldn’t want with you when there was trouble on the ranch.

I'm a reasonably good librarian, but the last time I was asked to do the simple task of closing a barbed wire fence, I locked myself in the pasture. Embarrassing.

I felt that lack of background again when I attended the funeral of Gil Whitman, a man I knew and deeply respected. Many of the longtime Douglas County ranchers were there, and I cannot imagine a harder working, plainer spoken, more civic-spirited group of people anywhere.

But I came away with an insight about the non-ranching side of his life. A former County Commissioner (1972-80) -- and a Democrat at that -- Gil was the sort of man who gave politics a good name.

Some years ago, I served as an election judge with his vivacious and fascinating wife, Cecile. She regaled us for hours with stories about Douglas County's near history. I remember her saying that for awhile, I believe when Gil was Commissioner, people actually used the Whitman's barn as a voting place.

In the fractious turmoil surrounding our recent Presidential election, I find it even more amazing that nobody ever thought there was anything the least bit fishy about holding elections on the private property of a sitting Commissioner. Why not? Because it was Gil Whitman, who integrity was so obvious, so immediately apparent just by meeting the man, whose fairness was so well-known, that the question never came up.

I got to visit Gil's ranch before he moved into town. He had rescued a good many abandoned county records from the courthouse after the fire, priceless archives that have now, thanks to his action and foresight, been restored to the public record. (He also had some of the most amazing machines in his barn!) I liked him.

We need more people like Gil Whitman. We need people who are willing to give thoughtfully of their time and experience to the public institutions that help define our community. As Gil Whitman served the school board, the county, and the Douglas County Fair board, we need a new generation of residents to step forward and invest themselves in the civic infrastructure of the county. They may follow his footsteps with the school district or county. They may serve on the Library Board of Trustees. They may give their time to some of the host of advisory committees serving the county or various towns.

But on thing is certain: they'll have a tough act to follow.

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