Steamboat Springs Jim Stanko knows many of the Yampa Valley soldiers serving in or returning from the Middle East. He has known some of them since they were children participating in 4-H Club programs.
"I feel very strongly for these kids," Stanko said.
This week, Stanko was appointed to a position of influence that may allow him to translate those feelings into political action. Gov. Bill Ritter announced Wednesday that he has appointed the Steamboat rancher and veteran to the Colorado Board of Veteran Affairs.
"The governor felt Mr. Stanko was the best candidate for the job," said Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Ritter. "His background and experience set him apart."
Stanko said he was encouraged by Routt County Democrats to apply for an open position on the board, created by the resignation of Armando Atencio of San Pablo. The term expires in 2009.
Dreyer said the board deals with numerous issues facing Colorado's hundreds of thousands of veterans. It makes recommendations to the state Division of Veterans Affairs.
"This is a very important board," Dreyer said.
Stanko said he has been an active advocate for 10 to 12 years. He was one of several local veterans who lobbied for many years for a recently opened veterans clinic in Craig. Previously, the nearest clinic was in Grand Junction. Stanko said he always has bent the ears of politicians regarding veterans' issues, and he once worked on a campaign for U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.
"I guess because I was working through the political system, the Democrats thought I would be a good candidate for the board," Stanko said. "This is just another avenue for me to keep doing what I think I need to be doing."
Stanko, commander of American Legion Post No. 44 and district commander of American Legion District No. 14, said his appointment is not yet official because it must first be approved by the state Senate. Stanko said he has not yet spoken with state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, about that process.
"I've known Jack for a long time," Stanko said. "I'm hoping that he'll make sure that the confirmation process goes smoothly."
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