Craig It’s been a long five weeks for Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid, who abruptly left town in April to check himself into rehab for alcohol and prescription drug abuse.
Kinkaid said Tuesday that he initially was hesitant to tell the community why he took a 30-day leave of absence, but ultimately he decided that telling the truth was best for him, his constituents and his family.
After being treated at the Harmony Foundation in Estes Park for five weeks, he says he’s better equipped to help fellow commissioners Tom Mathers and Chuck Grobe run Moffat County.
“I want to apologize for having to take off,” Kinkaid said. “Now that I’m back, I want the rest of Moffat County to know that they are going to have the best of me.”
The county paid Kinkaid his normal salary while he was gone. He received roughly $3,000 from the county during his stay at the treatment program. To prove to the community he’s dedicated to his work and that he’s not taking advantage of the situation, he and his wife dropped off a check Tuesday at the Moffat County Fair for $3,000.
“We felt it would be in the best interest for everyone if we donated my net income back to the community,” he said, noting that it’s up to Moffat County Fair officials to decide how to spend the money.
Fair officials confirmed the donation Tuesday.
His medical expenses at the Harmony Foundation totaled $19,000. He and his wife, Paula Kinkaid, decided to use money from their retirement fund to pay for rehab rather than have the county pay for his treatment.
“I took care of it privately. We took it out of our pension,” he said. “We did not have the county pay for it.”
Fearful of what the community will think now that the truth is out, Kinkaid said he hopes to restore faith in his abilities to successfully continue as a commissioner.
“(The community) can expect really good things from me. I’m back to being fully functional,” he said.
Kinkaid took office Jan. 8, which was the day after he retired as a control room operator at Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s Craig Station. Although he was sworn into office in January, it wasn’t until April 19 that he stopped drinking and abusing prescription drugs.
“I had a problem, and I took care of it,” Kinkaid said. “By taking care of myself, I’m also taking care of the residents of Moffat County.”
His wife has been on an emotional roller coaster since he left for rehab.
“He had to do it. Our life was not going to go on if he didn’t get help,” Paula Kinkaid said through tears Tuesday. “It was the hardest thing that we’ve ever done in our marriage. I love my husband. I wanted what was best for him and for us.”
The couple has been married for 33 years and has three children and one grandchild. Kinkaid is confident he made the right decision by gaining sobriety.
“I believe with every fiber in my being that I made the right decision, and now I can look forward to the future,” he said.
He understands the firestorm that might follow by going public with such news, but he hopes that his fellow community members and his fellow commissioners will better understand his past behavior.
“I’d like to say publicly ‘thank you’ to Chuck and Tom,” Kinkaid said.
Grobe declined to comment on the matter.
Mathers said he still has faith in Kinkaid and is hopeful that he will bring more to the table post-treatment.
“I’m tickled pink that he’s finally back,” Mathers said. “There’s a pretty good workload at the county. I think he can make a good commissioner. I told him that he really needed to get on board, because he got a late start here.”
It took a lot of guts for Kinkaid to be open and honest about his situation, Mathers said.
“I wish there were more politicians that would be as forthright and honest as John has been about this,” Mathers said. “You get tired of all the cover-ups. And now you get someone who finally tells the truth, even if it’s not a nice story.”
Kinkaid said his drug and alcohol addiction started roughly two years ago when he first started taking Ambien, which is a prescribed sleeping aid to treat insomnia.
“I started because of my shift work at the power plant,” he said. “I worked 12-hour rotating shifts.”
To get good rest in between rotating hours, he started taking Ambien. Next, he began taking Xanax on a regular basis, which is used to treat anxiety.
“Alcohol got into the mix, and that’s when things really started to go south,” Kinkaid said.
Despite his addictions, he said “at no time was I under the influence at work.”
He hopes that his story of recovery will inspire others.
“If anybody in the community is struggling with alcohol or prescription drugs, maybe my story can be an encouragement to get help,” he said.
Kinkaid knows that it’s not going to be an easy road ahead.
“I would ask the community to have an open mind and to be observant and watch me,” Kinkaid said. “I realize it won’t be an overnight process.”
Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.