One of the many pleasures of serving as state senator is gaining a deeper understanding about the communities that make up our unique part of the state. Last week, I had the opportunity to tour West Elk mine. After a nice lunch with the staff, an informative presentation by Jim Miller, general manager of West Elk, and safety training it was time to go. Jim and John Poulos, senior mining engineer, led our tour and introduced me to the long wall. This impressive machine was the first of many stops that gave me a firsthand look at the mine and how it operates.
While I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to see the inner workings of the mine, I most enjoyed hearing the stories and challenges faced by the folks who work there. From a father of two who left his job in order to join West Elk to put his kids through college, to the numerous people who spoke of their careers in decades instead of years, it's not difficult to get a sense of how central this mine is to our community. Towns like Paonia, Crawford, Hotchkiss and Somerset rely on a strong energy economy to make sure that dinner is on the table every night and the bills get paid every month. I hope you'll not only share your thoughts with me regarding the coal industry but also how we can diversify our economies to make sure future generations can live and thrive in our beautiful area of the state. Touring this mine was a tremendous opportunity to be better equipped in the next legislative session. Thank you for sharing your concerns and your community with me -- it was a pleasure.