When Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman was sworn in 12 years ago, it was during the Great Recession. When he left office Tuesday, it was amidst a pandemic.
“It was an honor and pleasure to work with so many community members and to have their continued support,” Newman said in an interview following his last board meeting Tuesday. “I just thank them for allowing me to serve them as one of their county commissioners.”
Over the course of his three terms in office, Newman was particularly proud of the capital improvement projects Pitkin County had checked off its list: chief among them were the opening of the Pitkin County Administration Office building, the expansion of the Pitkin County Library and the construction of the Aspen Ambulance District station next to Aspen Valley Hospital.
During Tuesday’s BOCC work session, several of Newman’s friends and colleagues participated virtually to thank him for his more than a decade of public service.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority CEO Dan Blankenship joked about how when he first met Newman nearly three decades ago, he was on the fence about Newman’s “strong opinions about things.”
“I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I really liked him at the time,” Blankenship said. “I’d have to say that George is an acquired taste for me, and he has really gotten a lot better with age.”
In addition to his role as commissioner, Newman also served 12 years on the RFTA board of directors. Blankenship noted that even though Newman was an alternate on the RFTA board for eight of those years, he still showed up to nearly every meeting and contributed wholeheartedly regardless of whether or not he could actually cast a vote.
“He was passionate and truly interested in what was going on at RFTA even though he might not have had an official vote at the meetings,” Blankenship said.
Eventually, Newman found himself chair of the RFTA board and was instrumental in the passage of the transportation authority’s 2.65 mill levy ballot measure, Destination 2040, which voters narrowly approved in 2018.
“George took it upon himself to take a resolution of support of that ballot measure around to every jurisdiction and made sure that everybody — even jurisdictions that were kind of on the fence — signed on to it,” Blankenship said. “Without his leadership, I can confidently say we probably would not have been successful in passing that ballot measure.”
Destination 2040 went on to pass by just 501 votes districtwide.
During Thursday’s BOCC work session, Pitkin County Commissioner Francie Jacober was sworn in by Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely as Newman’s successor.
A 26-year Roaring Fork Valley resident, Jacober won election in November after handily defeating Jeffrey Evans for Newman’s vacant seat.
“I think she is going to be an excellent commissioner,” Newman said of Jacober. “I think she is well rounded, and I think she will be a great fit with the rest of the board.”
On the campaign trail, Jacober pledged to address issues like climate change proactively and to promote and protect agriculture locally. Jacober on Tuesday thanked Newman for his service to the community and looked forward to serving her first term in the District 5 seat.
“I feel humbled following in your footsteps,” Jacober told Newman. “Thank you for setting such an incredible example.”