Revisiting Spring Conference 2019

Dorothy and Les Mergelman with Club 20 Executive Director Christian Reece after Les was presented with the Director’s Choice Award


Spring Conference began with the business of Executive and Board of Directors (BOD) meetings on Friday, April 12th. A total of thirty-four resolutions were brought before the BOD for approval, and as a result, 10 resolutions were deleted, 13 resolutions were amended, 9 resolutions were renewed, and 3 resolutions were adopted. New Club 20 resolutions include:



Awards Banquet


The John D. Vanderhoof Award, given for outstanding service and dedication to Western Colorado, was the first recognition of the evening. This year’s recipient has been a tireless contributor to Western Colorado, holding numerous prestigious awards, not only throughout Western Colorado, but the State and region. In 1988 he was appointed chairman of the state banking board by Governor Roy Romer. In 2008 he was awarded a major award from the Council for Resource Development and was only one of 10 benefactors across the United States and Canada to be honored.


Although Chairman and Chief Executive of Alpine Bank, J. Robert Young, was not able to receive the award in person, family and friends did on his behalf. 


Alpine Bank Regional President, Clay Tufly, and family members of Bob Young receive the John D. Vanderhoof Award on behalf of Mr. Young


The Preston Walker Award, given for outstanding leadership in Club 20, was given to Dale Hancock from Glenwood Springs. Dale’s experience and leadership in Club 20 has helped to guide the organization during the many years he served on the Executive Committee. His daughter, Christina, who recalls attending Club 20 events as a child, received the award on Dale’s behalf.


Club 20 Executive Director, Christian Reece, with Christina, who received the Preston Walker award on behalf of her father, Dale Hancock


The Lyman Thomas Award, given for length of service as a member of Club 20, was given to Kathy Hall of Grand Junction who has been a devoted Club 20 member for than 20 years, and took a turn as Board Chair in the 2000s. Kathy has worked on Presidential campaigns, served as an aid to two United States Senators, and served two terms as Mesa County Commissioner. Civic leadership at a local, regional and state level are just an everyday way of life for this honoree. She has served on numerous boards and commissions, some of which include: The Colorado River Conservation District, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, HopeWest, and West Slope COGA. 


Joyce Rankin poses with Kathy Hall after presenting the Lyman Thomas Award.


The Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award, given to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to forging working relationships with diverse interests to achieve common goals, included two recipients this year.


Even though Ellen Roberts was unable to attend the Awards Banquet, she was honored with the Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award as her life exhibits the spirit of collaboration and a commitment to solving problems, while protecting the West Slope way of life.


During her time as a legislator, she served in both the House and the Senate finishing her last 2 years as Senate President Pro Tempore.  Throughout this decade of public service, much of her focus was directed toward natural resource policy issues and advocating on behalf of Western Colorado. In 2015 she served as chair of the Water Resources review committee and in 2016 Chair of the wildfire matters interim committee.


Cary Baird, Chevron Policy, Government & Public Affairs Field Representative, presented the second Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award to JT Romatzke. In 2008, JT was promoted to Area Wildlife Manager in Grand Junction. In 2015, JT was honored with a Public Service Award given by the Colorado Cattleman’s Association and received the Association of Midwest Fish and Wildlife Officers, Law Enforcement of the Year Award. After Ron Velarde decided to retire, JT joined the CPW leadership team as the Northwest Regional Manager, tasked with managing local wildlife and the region’s 42 state parks. JT’s experience brokering compromise and working toward the best interests of our region have not been overlooked.


JT Romatzke with his wife of 22 years, Kelly Romatzke


The New Member of the Year Award, given to honor new Club 20 members for their active involvement and engagement during their first year of membership, also included two recipients this year.


Even though representatives of Let Colorado Vote was unable to attend the Awards Banquet, this organization was honored with the New Member of the Year Award as they have made a tremendous stride in increasing voter engagement and participation in every Colorado Election.  This organization started as the supporters of Props 107 and 108, which successfully reinstated Colorado’s presidential primary and opened our primary elections to all Colorado voters in 2016. This was successfully done with the Support of Club 20 on both propositions.  In 2018 over 294 thousand unaffiliated voters, which was nearly a third of the voters, over 1.1 million total voters participated in the open primary election.  Independents, who declined to join either party, showed up to the polls more than both Republican or Democratic voters for the first time in Colorado’s history, exercising a new right to vote in the primaries.



Merrit Linke, Club 20 Chair-Elect, presented the second New Member of the Year Award to Jenifer Jessep and colleagues from her team at Swire Coca-Cola.


As the fifth largest Coca-Cola Bottler in the United States Swire Coca-Cola has had deep roots on the Western Slope. For more than 40 years, Swire has served western Colorado with best class customer service, a large variety of products and provided jobs to the community.  Grand Junction and Glenwood spring are just a couple of the communities in which Swire employees Coloradoans, however in the overall western region they employ 6,700 associates. Their Commitment to western Colorado is a part of their mission to be the best employer, the best business partner, and the best corporate citizen wherever they do business.


New Member of the Year Award Recipients from Swire Coca-Cola: Glen Bell, Tim Gabelson, Kelly Rowley, Bill Martinez, Ron Kovach, Ed Roginski, and Jenifer Jessep


The Emeritus Award, given to Club 20 members who have dedicated their lives to promoting and protecting Western Colorado through their work with CLUB 20. Emeritus recipients receive a complimentary individual membership and are considered our guests at our annual meetings.


Scott McInnis has worked as a police officer and has given back to his community by working as a volunteer fireman.  In 1983 he was elected to the State Legislature serving in the House for the next ten years alongside leaders such as Tillie Bishop, Wayne Allard, Tom Glass, and Dan Noble. During his time at the State House, he was elected House Majority Leader and served as Chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.


Scott was elected to the United States Congress in 1993 and represented the 3rd Congressional district for 12 years. He was a member of the Ways & Means Committee, the natural resource committee, and Chairman of the Healthy Forest Sub-Committee. He was later elected to the Mesa County Board of Commissioners in 2014 where he has been working on behalf of the county on a variety of issues.   


Phil Vaughan, Club 20 Business Affairs Policy Committee Chair with Scott and Lori McInnis after presenting the Emeritus Award


The Chairman’s Award is presented to a Club 20 member in appreciation for going above and beyond for Club 20, and is selected at the discretion of the Club 20 Chair.


Cindy described Ann McCoy Harold as one who epitomizes what Club 20 stands for in every way. This person is strongly opinionated, yet reasoned and objective. Also, thoughtful and considerate of others, respectful without compromise on what’s important. This person truly cares about the issues of Club 20 and the West Slope. Ann has served in a varied career path which includes a stint in the publishing world, serving as Chair of Club 20, and now, working for Senator Cory Gardner as his representative in southwest Colorado.  Ann has been a tireless advocate for the West Slope.


Cindy shared, “When I first came to Club 20, about 10 years ago, many people reached out to me and were friendly and patient with my many questions and helpful to me. But, Ann took the time to greet me, introduce me to others, answer my questions, and, sort of bring me in to the group. I was a deer in the headlights for awhile at Club 20. Ann was the first person to reach out to me. This really stood out to me.”


Cindy Dozier, Club 20 Chair, presents the Chairman’s Award to Ann McCoy-Harold


The Director’s Choice Award is presented to a Club 20 member at the discretion of the Club 20 Executive Director. Christian Reece shared prior to presenting the award to Les Mergelman that “I recall a conversation in my office one day when I was struggling with something and this person began telling me a story about his daughter and some professional challenges she had gone through and how she worked through them. He said, ‘She is smart, strong, and works herself to the bone and she reminds me a lot of you. You’ll figure it out.’ From that moment a fatherly sort of relationship began to grow and has continued since.”



Christian continued, “Born and raised in Gunnison, Les and his lovely wife Dorothy have two children and four grandchildren-which they travel to Rangely and Nebraska regularly to visit. Les was a well-respected banker for 33 years and Dorothy as a school teacher for 35 years. They have both been involved in Club 20 since 1979- more years than I have lived on this planet- and he is one of our historians-whenever I need to know something about what we did in the past, Les is my go-to man! Every time he shares stories of the past, whether it is with Club 20 or the Independent Banker’s Association, I am reminded of the value of sitting and listening to stories of how things used to be and how we came to be where we are today.”


“I think anyone who knows Les and Dorothy knows of the countless hours they have given our organization – from dragging a grill all across the Western Slope so we can all enjoy a steak fry to serving 6 years on our leadership team. We wouldn’t be the Club 20 we are today without them. For so many reasons, it a great honor for me tonight to present Les Mergelman with the Executive Director’s Award for 2019.”

– Christian Reece



Saturday Presenters

Please note: Content and ideas expressed are provided as an overview of Spring Conference presenters here, and are not an inherent endorsement or indication of Club 20’s policy positions.  For an overview of Club 20’s current policy positions please visit the Club 20 Policy Center.



Kate Greenberg, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture

Commissioner Greenberg shared her experience in agricultural ventures in various parts of the country, which included Durango, CO prior to her appointment. The adversity she faced in those experiences helped her to understand the challenges in the industry and those championing them to provide sustenance for the nation.

Commissioner Greenberg also shared the four main areas of focus her office is working on 1) Succession, 2) Supporting high-value agriculture and diversity, 3) Stewardship, and 4) Mental health.

Commissioner Greenberg highlighted the difficulty that young adults face in financing a farming future and how grants and internships are made available for this reason. She also touched on the Colorado Agriculture Mitigation Program (CAMP), which provides support for succession planning.



Sallie Clark, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Colorado

Director Sallie Clark shared how she looks forward to visiting communities to celebrate outcomes from a partnership with USDA Rural Development programs where homes, businesses, and community entities have engaged and sought to address needed renovations.

USDA Rural Development objectives are built on principles of affordable housing, stimulating business and economic development, and facilitating community infrastructure needs.

Programs geared towards supporting affordable housing include the Single-Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants in Colorado, which applies to homeowners and includes maximum grant amounts of $7,500 and maximum loan amounts of $20,000.

Rural areas who are in need of developing essential community facilities may qualify for the Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program in Colorado.

Rural Business Development Grants are available for business projects benefitting rural areas or towns outside the urbanized periphery of any city with a population of 50,000 or more.

Director Clark was excited to share that increased funding, a $600 million appropriation from Congress which more than doubled federal funding available through USDA’s longstanding broadband program, has become available through the new ReConnect Rural Broadband Infrastructure Program.

Director Clark expressed hope that rural Coloradans would lead the country in maximizing these funding opportunities. Her presentation is available here.



Rose Pugliese, Mesa County Commissioner and Don Wilson, Mayor of Monument

Commissioner Pugliese and Mayor Wilson presented next steps on the National Popular Vote compact, and how they are a part of a grassroots campaign championing the Electoral College.

The National Popular Vote (NPV) compact currently has 12 states, including Colorado, and D.C. totaling 181 Electoral College votes. Once enough states join the compact equaling a total of 270 total Electoral College votes, the agreement dictates the allocation of Electoral Votes to the national popular vote winner for President.

Commissioner Pugliese and Mayor Wilson highlighted the reasons why the NPV is a bad idea, including the fact that the Colorado Legislature joined the NPV compact with a simple majority vote amid bipartisan opposition. They maintain that the voters deserve a voice in this decision.

They also assert that Colorado law expressly allows voters to challenge legislation passed at the capitol. Coloradans can collect enough signatures to halt implementation of the law until the next election when voters can decide the fate of the law.

125,000 valid signatures from registered voters are needed to halt the law until voters get the chance to weigh in on election day in 2020. Signatures are due by August 1, 2019.

Commissioner Pugliese and Mayor Wilson have seen a tremendous response to their call for meeting petition goals. 1,500 volunteer sign-ups in 54 of 64 counties, over 3,500 petitions have been circulated, 100 packets a day are being shipped out, and over 50 signing events have occurred. Online fundraising for this effort resulted in $22,000 on its first day.

Learn more about their efforts from their presentation here.



Kevin Patterson, CEO Connect for Health Colorado

Mr. Patterson shared that Connect for Health Colorado representatives will be traveling across the state later this year to have conversations with people to learn how they can improve the health insurance marketplace and discover which policy conversations they need to have at a higher level to move forward in their service.

Mr. Patterson spotlighted the operational roadmap offered at the Connect for Health Colorado website as a resource for comparing plan costs, seeking plans based on health needs, and determining the best fit among factors such as covered doctors and needed medications.

Learn more about Connect for Health Colorado here.



Patrick Gordon, Associate Vice President Rocky Mountain Health Plans

Mr. Gordon described current health policy actions underway to address premium increases in the region, the tremendous pressure on the state general fund by the largest carrier (Medicaid), and the influence of behavioral health on costs.

The current health policy actions to address these factors include HB 19-1168, Colorado Reinsurance Program to stabilize the cost of coverage in the expansion pool; HB 19-1001, Colorado Hospital Transparency to promote greater transparency and data-driven decision making in health care policy; HB 19-1004, Competitive State Option to reduce the price of qualified coverage options; and the Medicaid Regional Accountable Entity (RAE) and RMHP Prime to address social and behavioral cost drivers – particularly in Medicaid – through integrated care and community action.

Mr. Gordon’s presentation can be viewed here.



Energy Issues Panel Discussion

Jeff Robbins, Executive Director, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission; Rich Coolidge, Senior Strategist, VITAL for Colorado; Geoff Wilson, Former CML Attorney, Special Counsel at Murray, Dahl, Beery, Renaud, LLP

A lively panel discussion took place with various perspectives on the impact that SB 19-181 will have on Colorado’s economy. Director Jeff Robbins’ presentation is available here.

During Q & A, Mesa County Commissioner Pugliese pointed out the fact that oil and gas companies with a history of doing business in Colorado are not waiting for the outcomes of rule-making resulting from SB 19-181, and are already seeking ventures out of state. The Grand Junction Sentinel’s article referencing this panel discussion can be read here.



Emerging Issues Panel Discussion

Gallagher Options Update: Bernie Buescher, Of Counsel Ireland Stapleton

Bernie Buescher outlined the history of initiatives aimed at addressing Gallagher issues and provided a forecast on the options today in light of current numbers.

TABOR De-Brucing Initiatives: Senator Bob Rankin

Senator Rankin discussed the moderate growth trends for Colorado and the resulting TABOR outlook. Senator Rankin’s Budget and TABOR presentation is available here and Budget Academy is available here.

Colorado Forest Watershed Alliance Update: Cindy Dozier, Club 20 Board Chair

Cindy Dozier described the recent formation of the Colorado Forest & Water Alliance (COFWA) to mutually assist in the advocacy for meaningful and measurable improvements in forest health and watershed resiliency in Colorado at state and federal levels. The membership of the alliance is comprised of the Colorado Timber Industry Association, Colorado Water Congress, Club 20, The Nature Conservancy, and the Watershed Health Investment Partners. Learn more about COFWA at the presentation here.



Eric Hopfenbeck, Executive Director CiviCO

Ryan Heckman, CiviCO Co-Chair and Eugene Smit, Partner in the McKinsey & Company Denver office joined Mr. Hopfenbeck in spotlighting the CiviCO Leadership Academy, which is a distinctive program which accelerates leadership development of top rising talent and unites them in a powerful community to multiply impact.

The program cycle is about to begin with a kick-off conference in September 2019, with Regional Leadership Huddles the third Thursday of each month from October – April, and ends in May 2020.

Mr. Hopfenbeck urged the audience to consider nominating high potential community leaders from the private, public, and/or social sector to the program, and can do so by emailing him at Learn more about CiviCO Leadership Academy at the presentation here.





Club 20 events would not be successful without the generous support of our sponsors, of whom we are extremely grateful. Please help us in expressing our gratitude whenever the opportunity presents itself.





















  • Enstrom Candies
  • Executive Security International
  • St. Mary’s Medical Center
  • Grand Valley Water Users Association
  • Fort Lewis College
  • Home Loan Investment Company




  • Ray Beck
  • Crossroads Fitness
  • Kathy Fackler