Colorado’s county treasurers and their taxing problem with the press

County treasurers Brita Horn of Routt County, Irene Josey of Larimer County and Paul Weissmann of Boulder County at the treasurers' association meeting today in Fort Collins. (SOS photo)
County treasurers Brita Horn of Routt County, Irene Josey of Larimer County and Paul Weissmann of Boulder County at the treasurers’ association meeting today in Fort Collins. (SOS photo)

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.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels, Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan and Keagan Harsha of Fox31 talk to Colorado's elected treasurers in Fort Collins today.
Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels, Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan and Keagan Harsha of Fox31 talk to Colorado’s elected treasurers in Fort Collins today.

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.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Phillips County Treasurer Linda Statz during his visit to Holyoke.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Phillips County Treasurer Linda Statz during his visit to Holyoke.

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.)