By Lucas Vader
Eugene “Gene” Welch, mayor of Cedaredge until last month, said his farewell to the town as a whole in the regular “Writing On the Edge” newsletter that goes out with utility billing. In this, he announced, “I am finally going to fully retire...no job, no Trustee duties, no Mayoral duties!”
After 12-and-a-half-years of serving on the board of trustees in some manner, Welch is ready to move on, along with his wife, Judy. He didn’t run for reelection, though he could have. He hadn’t reached his term limit, so the choice to leave the board was his own.
“[We’re] getting up at the age there when we want the freedom to come and go, and our schedule doesn’t revolve around work sessions and meetings and stuff like that,” Welch said, which from late 2005 to last month (with the exception of a two-year break from 2014-2016), it has.
During Welch’s time on the board of trustees, he’s seen the completion of several projects, including the Main Street redesign that transformed the suffering street of the 2008 recession into a more sightly, historic downtown.
“I think that Main Street project helped generate more revenue and more businesses,” Welch said. “That Main Street was just almost a ghost town at one time.”
In other projects, Welch was involved in the Centennial Plaza and the J Street bridge, which used to only be one lane.
Apart from new projects, Welch said another highlight of his time on the board was simply maintaining the town alongside Town Administrator Greg Brinck and previous administrator Katie Sickles. “I think we produced some very good budgets that everybody could live with,” Welch said.
Throughout his run, Welch also desired to obtain better funding for the Cedaredge Police Department, which unfortunately never could happen due to tight resources. He was, on that note, a fan of the Back the Badge initiative that failed in November. At this point, he is still thankful the board of trustees still appears to share those same concerns, and he’s confident the trustees aren’t about to give up on their police department.
Welch’s involvement with the Cedaredge board of trustees began in the fall months of 2005, when a trustee vacancy opened up on the board. After having moved to Cedaredge in 1998 and buying the Tri-R motel, Welch would frequently have coffee in the morning with friends at the mercantile. With those meetings, of course, came conversations about current events, including those which were local.
“Every time the town did something, I’d say ‘Well, I wouldn’t have done it that way. I would have done it this way,’” Welch said. “You know how a bunch of guys get together and everything and talk.”
When a vacancy opened up on the board, Welch said the coffee group turned to him. “They said, ‘Okay, Big Mouth, here’s your chance,’ and so I went in for the interview, and I told them what I had done and everything else, the company I worked for.”
He got the job.
Welch filled the vacancy for the remaining six months of that term, then he ran as an official candidate, hoping to be elected to the board by the residents of Cedaredge. He was. At the end of his four-year term, he ran for reelection. He got another four years. Having hit the two-term limit at the end of that second four years, Welch took two years off, from 2014-2016, and then returned, elected as the new mayor.
Welch’s background included an 18-year career with Nabisco as a sales rep. Two years in, he went to Wyoming, where he covered about a third of the state. He later took a promotion and went to Denver, where he was account manager until the end of his career, when Nabisco started downsizing and restructuring, prompting Welch to decide to leave.
Around that time, Gene and Judy Welch started traveling. As a fan of golf, Welch said they went to Moab and Grand Junction to play their courses, and with a day to spare, went to golf in Cedaredge.
Welch’s parents had previously lived in Cedaredge, at which time the golf course was being built.
“So I came over here and I stayed at the Tri-R Motel, and six months later, I owned the motel,” Welch said. He owned that until about three years ago. Selling the Tri-R marked Welch’s semi-retirement. Leaving the board of trustees marked the completion of that retirement.
There are a number of duties Welch is glad are over for him, as he said in regards to the years he’s served on the board, “Twelve and a half’s plenty.”
“Right now, there’s a lot of stuff, the headaches and the stuff like that,” Welch said. “And, you know, something’s always breaking or a little surprise they tell us we got to fix.”
On that note, Welch said there’s one aspect of the job he already misses.
“What I really, really miss more than anything is the people who work for the town,” Welch said. “It’s got a great bunch of people, and like any business — you know, I was in the business — people do come and go, but you’re only as good as the people that work for you.”
Since deciding that the end of his term would be the time to fully retire, Welch and his wife had planned to travel. Due to the subpar condition of the world at the moment, those plans have been delayed, but Welch said they will travel sooner or later. Until then, he’s being productive at home.
“My to-do list is really getting knocked out,” he said. “I mean, this thing was about two pages. I think I’m down to about ten items now.”
Going forward, Welch is ready to leave the town’s affairs in the hands of Ray Hanson, the new mayor, as well as the new board of trustees and the staff of the Town of Cedaredge.