Bob Slough

Retiring county attorney deserves thanks for dedication, accomplishments

Bob Slough, who served as Montezuma County's attorney for more than a quarter-century, deserves citizens' gratitude for his numerous contributions to good government and sound policy.

Because Slough is a gentleman, and a quiet one at that, and because county attorneys operate mostly behind the scenes, many of those contributions are not widely known.

Through the years, he's seen commissioners come and go, each individual bringing different strengths, personalities, passions and degrees of familiarity with the laws that apply to county government. They didn't need to be legal experts; they had Bob Slough for that.

An extremely competent and thorough legal scholar, he was also gifted at helping commissioners understand how the best interests of the county and its people could be accomplished. He advised the commissioners about which goals were achievable, which strategies would be effective (and which would be unaffordable), and which ideas, no matter how good they might be, simply wouldn't fly. He also represented the county's social services department in actions often related to child welfare, an essential function that received little attention.

While sensitive to the will of the people, he was not easily swayed by political considerations. Instead, he concerned himself with what was legal and what was right, helping to ensure that the county would not be challenged successfully on legal grounds.

Slough is perhaps most widely known for tackling the premise that the concessionaire operating in Mesa Verde National Park could not be taxed for its "possessory interest" in improvements, such as Far View Lodge and restaurants within the park, that it used in a profit-making capacity.

"Every county attorney in Colorado told him he was crazy," related one local attorney familiar with the case, "but Bob wasn't swayed by politics or by fear. He just behaved like a good old country lawyer and did the right thing."

The concessionaire appealed the tax ruling all the way to the state supreme court, and Slough and Montezuma County prevailed every step of the way.

The state Legislature - lobbied by such powerful interests as ski resorts and major sports franchises that had built facilities on public land, and concerned that such improvements as fences and water tanks on grazing leases could be taxed - reacted, repealing the statutes on which the Montezuma County case had been based. But none of the legal wrangling that followed Slough's triumph can diminish that accomplishment, which was, by far, not the only notable achievement of his career.

In January, the newly seated county commission voted not to renew Slough's contract. That, too, does not detract from all he has contributed to Montezuma County.

Thank you, Bob Slough, and best wishes for a bright future.