Gov. Bill Ritter visits with residents during the Democratic rally on the Routt County Courthouse lawn prior to the November election.

Photo by Tyler Arroyo

Gov. Bill Ritter visits with residents during the Democratic rally on the Routt County Courthouse lawn prior to the November election.

Meet your new governor

Bill Ritter to speak at Yacht Club event on Sunday

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Gov. Bill Ritter visits with residents during the Democratic rally on the Routt County Courthouse lawn prior to the November election.

— Colorado's new governor is coming to Steamboat Springs.

Gov. Bill Ritter is scheduled to meet with residents and give a brief address at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Yacht Club restaurant on Yampa Street. Ritter, a Democrat, was inaugurated as the state's 41st governor last week at the Capitol in Denver, two months after defeating Arvada Republican and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez in the 2006 general election.

Ritter solidly defeated Beauprez in Routt County, earning 66 percent of local votes compared to 31 percent for Beauprez.

Steamboat resident Catherine Carson, who coordinated Ritter's local campaign with Steamboat resident Sally Claassen, said Sunday's event will be a celebration and a substantive conversation about issues affecting the Western Slope.

"It will be a little of both," Carson said Thursday. "He wants to thank all of his supporters, but he also wants to introduce himself as governor. He will give a short speech to talk about his key goals and plans, then he will mingle with the crowd and give people a chance to meet their governor."

That's a chance many people in Steamboat have not had for some time. While former Gov. Bill Owens made a brief visit to The Haven Assisted Living Center in Hayden in October 2005, Owens last visited Steamboat in June 2004, when he spoke about tax reform issues to a large crowd at Centennial Hall.

During Ritter's campaign for governor and in his first State of the State address, at the Capitol on Jan. 11, the former Denver district attorney cited goals for Colorado including developing renewable energy, expanding access to health care and improving education.

While Ritter has stressed a statewide, inclusive approach to government outlined in his "Colorado Promise," he has not yet appointed anyone from the Western Slope to his Cabinet.

"I would love to see some appointments to his Cabinet from the Western Slope, but I don't know what kind of applications he had to work with - his job is to put the people he feels are best qualified in those positions," said Republican Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak. "We on the Western Slope have always needed to be a little more proactive, a little more vigilant when it comes to state issues. The bottom line is we will have to continue to do that."

Ritter will visit Steamboat at the end of a whirlwind weekend tour of the state. He and wife Jeannie Ritter will visit Sterling, Burlington and Trinidad on Friday, then La Junta, Alamosa, Durango, Rifle and Grand Junction on Saturday. On Sunday, the couple will visit Edwards in Eagle County before traveling to Steamboat.

"I think the fact that he's making all these visits shows he's thinking of the state as a whole," said Lynn Abbott, secretary of the Routt County Democratic Party. "I think he's going to be a very inclusive governor - that's the way his campaign was run."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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