As somebody who spent 35 years as a journalist, it’s painful to hear a litany of elected state treasurers describe their problems with the press over the years. Misquotes. Bias. And even having their letters to the editors changed.
Still, it was a privilege to address the Colorado County Treasurers’ Association and the Public Trustee Association of Colorado today at their conference in Fort Collins. And a relief to know that sometimes county commissioners also can be difficult to deal with. (That’s a joke. My boss used to be a commissioner.)
Appearing on the media panel with me were Nick Coltrain, a reporter with the Fort Collins Coloradoan, and Keagan Harsha, a reporter and anchor for Fox31. The topic: “What you can’t — or think you can’t — control.”
Some of our advice: Turn to social media when needed, assume you’re being tape recorded and don’t duck the press even if you can’t give much of a statement. And try to repair relationships with reporters. It will benefit you in the long run.
Among the treasurers present at the conference:
Boulder County Treasurer Paul Weissmann is a former state lawmaker who knew the rules at the Gold Dome better than almost anyone else.
Douglas County Treasurer Diane Holbert belongs to one of Colorado’s power couples; her husband is state Sen. Chris Holbert.
And Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, known for her high-raise hair, isn’t afraid to let the local paper know if she believes a reporter got something wrong. And she got a shout out this year for her “principled stand on taxes.”
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams often stops by to see the treasurer when he’s at a courthouse meeting with a county clerk.
During his visit to Phillips County last month, he discovered that Treasurer Linda Statz’s office is filled from floor-to-ceiling with all kinds of M&Ms memorabilia. She’s one of the treasurers who knows Williams’ wife, Holly, because Holly Williams used to be the trustee in El Paso County.
Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey, the conference host, and I have a special connection — we’re both from Vermillion, S.D. (Go Coyotes!) As a college student back in the Paleozoic age, one summer I worked for the local newspaper and covered her dad, Paul, who was a county commissioner. He now lives down the street from my sister.
The president of the treasurer’s association is Tim Kauffman of Jefferson County.
“I knew your predecessor,” I told him. “Good luck.”
That got a good laugh. (You have to know Colorado politics to get that one.)