Focused on important subjects

Constitution remains driving political force for Bud Garner

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Courtesy Photo Bud Garner leads a discussion on the constitution in this 2010 photo.

Government, the constitution and the Declaration of Independence are vitally important to Bud Garner.

Those three facets of life is what community activist Bud Garner lives by.

Garner has been involved in local politics in some form or fashion since moving to Cortez in 1994. But he said he doesn't care for traditional politics. He's much more interested in liberty.

He also said there are two governing principles - the rule of law and the rule of man - and city governments have gone to the rule of man principle which, he said, is a dictatorship where codes are decided on a case-by-case basis while being more oppressive.

In the spring, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Montezuma County Commission after waiting to see if those elected would act on public land issues, which, he said, never occurred.

His primary focus in his campaign was the public land issue, but he says that he was not just a one-topic candidate.

"Several things are going on around here," he said, adding that he became involved in the city and county ever since he and his wife moved. He added he has no other political aspirations.

Garner's first foray into Montezuma County politics related to the school his grandson was attending.

He noticed the fifth-grade textbooks had numerous errors. When he voiced his concerns he was informed that the district had a five-year contract to use the textbooks and were only in the first year.

"I was suppose to accept that explanation from a school administrator?" He said.

When his oldest daughter was about to enter the first grade, he wondered why she couldn't attend the school that he could see from their home rather than having his 6-year-old daughter bused miles away to another school.

"This got me involved in out-of-control government mandates," he said. "I have always been a history person. I saw a huge disconnect, and I had to pipe up then."

While he had no success in getting new textbooks for his grandchild, Garner was able to have his daughter transferred to the school near his home.

Garner was also involved in the group that attempted but failed to recall the mayor and four Cortez City Council members in the spring of 2011.

The decision to try to recall the council members had been made before he was asked to join the effort, which he did after doing his own homework.

He stressed that he was not one of the group members who collected the signatures.

The recall effort failed with more than 82 percent of voters siding with the mayor and councilors.

Now, Garner is directing most of his energy toward the county, thinking that is where he could have the greatest impact.

"I have been going to the county commission (meetings) for three years and in that time I thought it was something I could do," he said in explaining why he decided to run in the Republican primary this past spring.

Garner finished a distant second to Keenan Ertel in the primary.

Garner admitted he did not know anything about running a campaign in the practical sense and some of the advice he was given was not something he could do.

"One piece of advice did not meet my personal beliefs. Schmooze and don't say anything. Don't talk about the issues and smile a lot."

He said the public had a right to know his beliefs before voting.

The political activist also remembered how he became involved in the local 9-12 Project group when a woman from the Denver 9-12 group called for a meeting at the Dolores library.

Three people at the group decided to meet in a week or two after the meeting to bring a list of names who might be interested in leading the local group.

When the three met, the other two members said they did not compile a list because they wanted Garner to do the job.

He accepted the responsibility, but stepped down from the 9-12 Project leadership role in the spring to concentrate on his commissioner campaign

Growing up on his grandfather's farm in Maryland in the 1950s while attending a very small school impacted his life even today.

After graduating from high school in 1959, Garner, 70, attended the University of Maryland to study engineering.

He conceded he was not prepared emotionally or mentally for college and ended up flunking out.

"I was not mature or focused enough," he said bluntly.

Garner remembered not attending school until shortly after Christmas in the first grade where he and a transferring student were given a test to judge their knowledge.

Less than two days later, Garner was promoted to the second grade,

Garner married his first wife and began working for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. and continued working with telephone companies until he moved to Cortez in 1994.

With his first wife, he had two daughters and they also adopted two boys.

After working with the telephone company for 10 years, Garner, working the night shift at the time, decided to go back to college to pursue a civil engineering degree.

Garner, by that time, had become a manager at the phone company.

He said what helped him was that the college considered him a returning a student, so all the credit hours he earned in his first college experience still counted.

Even after he graduated from college, Garner continued working for the phone company and never used his college degree in the traditional work force.

When the phone company was sold it gave him his first glimpse of corporate politics which he did not like, prompting him to quit.

Now single, Garner moved to Fort Collins because he had friends there and worked for a small telephone company for eight months until the business filed for bankruptcy.

After being unemployed for about a year, Garner was hired by Mountain Bell and became the only telephone man in Rangely, Colo. in 1975. He remained in the small northwestern Colorado town until 1994.

While in Rangely, Garner met his second and current wife who had grown up in Cortez and still had family in the city.

Century Link, in 1994 purchased the company where Garner had worked for close to 20 years but the new owners did not want to keep him as an employee due to his longevity.

U.S. West asked Garner to provide him with the top three choices he would like to transfer to in Colorado.

His second choice was Durango behind Glenwood Springs, though he conceded he knew the company was not going to give him his top choice and was transferred to Durango, though he mostly worked in Cortez.

He lived with his wife's mom and because his home office on paper was in Durango he was paid mileage, prompting him to be transferred to Cortez where he stayed until retiring in 2002.

Garner admitted he really doesn't have any hobbies except for reading non-fiction and lots of history. He said he does not care to read fiction.

Garner also thinks Cortez is too big of a city with too many people to his liking, but pointed out there were just five homes near the area where he was raised in Maryland. Rangely had a population of about 1,800 people.

"I can lead a meeting and be a master of ceremonies," he said. "I can do those things, but I do very well by myself. I don't hate people but am comfortable being alone. Alone and loneliness are not the same thing."

He said he grew up in the country so there was plenty of time and space to be alone.

"I don't find any disadvantage to being alone," Garner said and added he and his wife do not go to friend's homes and friends rarely visit them at their home.

He also thinks people are too preoccupied with certain activities that take away time from the more important things in life - like attending government meetings and getting involved in areas that affect them.

"If we put the time into (government) that we do in playing golf or watching a football game, we would be a far cry from where we are at today," he said.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com

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Sam Green/Cortez Journal Bud Garner speaks at a meeting with Forest Service officials and the County Commissioners.