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New members appointed to Montezuma County Fair Board

Two would-be members kept off the board amid dispute with commissioner
Keandra Elliot coaxes her steer into the ring for the beef show at the 2014 Montezuma County Fair.

New members have been appointed to the Montezuma County Fair Board, but they don’t include two former members who withdrew their resignations.

On Monday, Montezuma County commissioners voted to appoint Elecia Bellmire, Kelly Comisky, Connie Watkins and David Robinson to the board to replace seven volunteers who resigned in early January.

Two of those members, Brandee Simmons and Heather Frazier, withdrew their resignations about a week later at commissioner Larry Don Suckla’s request, but the commissioners chose not to re-appoint them to the board. The commissioners also voted to suspend a section of the Fair Board’s bylaws in order to allow the new team to vote on issues at its first meeting later that night.

Suckla said he believed having seven members, instead of the previous nine, would help the Fair Board to be more efficient. He recommended that the commissioners appoint the four new would-be members and leave out Simmons and Frazier, saying he had only asked the latter to return because he was worried that too few people would submit letters of interest by the Jan. 16 deadline.

“If we pick the four new ones, we’ll have seven, and I think we’ll move forward rapidly,” Suckla said.

The appointments were approved unanimously.

Both Simmons and Frazier said Suckla had led them to believe they were guaranteed a spot on the Fair Board if they withdrew their resignations. Simmons, who served as the Fair Board vice president for several years, said she resigned because she felt her family had been “personally attacked” by Suckla and the Colorado State University extension office advisory committee he helped to appoint in late 2017.

In her resignation letter, Simmons wrote that the committee had accused her of having conflicts of interest with events at the fair.

Simmons was related to one of the 4-H superintendents at the 2017 fair, as were several other past and present members of the Fair Board.

County 4-H director Andrea Jeter also served as superintendent of poultry competitions, in which her daughter won 19 awards including Best of Show, at least five more than any other contestant, according to results provided by the Fair Board. Jeter agreed with the board of commissioners on Jan. 8 she would not seek that position this year, after Suckla said he wanted to avoid apparent conflicts of interest. The 2018 superintendent list has not been finalized.

The Fair Board is in charge of selecting open class superintendents, while the CSU extension office is responsible for 4-H superintendents, according to a memorandum of agreement signed by both groups in January.

Simmons agreed to return to the board, she said, because Suckla apologized for his accusations and said she was needed. She said she was surprised when he recommended against her appointment.

“I feel pretty slighted,” she said.

Frazier, who had served on the board about two months when she resigned, said she agreed to return on the condition that Suckla “make things right” with Simmons, and that the Fair Board more consistently follow its bylaws. She said the disagreement between Suckla and Simmons was just one symptom of some larger problems with the way the annual county fair is run.

“When I started on the board, I didn’t even know we had bylaws,” she said. “It isn’t structured in a way that would be successful.”

After the commissioners’ meeting, Suckla said Simmons and Frazier had volunteered to rejoin the board for just one year, “to get the new board on its feet.” He also said he believed they were aware they wouldn’t be chosen if enough people volunteered for the vacancies.

A section of the board’s bylaws prohibits new members from voting until they have attended at least one meeting. The commissioners unanimously approved Suckla’s suggestion to suspend that rule for one year so new members could vote in a special meeting that night.

The Fair Board held a lengthy meeting Monday evening to begin planning this year’s county fair. They started by appointing officers.

Allen Higgins was elected the new board president, T.W. Gilliland was elected vice president, Comisky was elected secretary and Erin Gordanier was elected treasurer.

Six of the seven board members attended Monday’s meeting, with Bellmire absent. They spent the majority of the meeting reviewing proposed changes to competition rules.

The board will continue to meet on the third Monday of every month at 7 p.m. Its meetings are open to the public, and agendas and minutes can be found on the Montezuma County website under the “Fairgrounds” tab.

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