Former Ouray Mayor Bob Risch. Plaindealer file photo.
By Sheridan Block
After six years in office, Ouray Mayor Bob Risch is set for retirement, handing back the reins of mayorship to his predecessor, the newly elected Pam Larson.
Risch’s three term tenure was “mostly very positive” and in leaving the position, he said he has no regrets about his or the council's decisions.
“I always thought you had to be crazy to be mayor without spending time on council, but I did that,” he said. “I just kind of jumped in. It seemed like a good opportunity and I really enjoyed the experience.”
Having been an active member of the community and participating in local organizations such as the Ouray Trail Group, Risch was familiar with happenings around town, though he mentioned his time as mayor, especially the first six months, was a learning experience and taught him much about local government affairs and the work and effort that goes in to running a municipality.
With a new council coming in, Risch believes some of the goals and focuses will remain the same, particularly those concerning water and energy.
As water is the city’s most valuable resource, protecting and expanding both geothermal and domestic sources are important, said Risch. In the last year, the city was able to acquire Red Mountain Ditch, which has helped prevent calls on the city’s water. Currently, city staff is working with state water engineers to improve the city’s ranking as a water rights holder, an ongoing process which needs to be completed, Risch added.
Energy conservation and understanding the city’s energy usages and resources is another priority that the new council should keep in focus, said Risch, especially geothermal energy. The reason energy conservation is important, he added, is that it saves money. The city is spending nearly $25,000 less each year on electricity now than it did nearly a decade ago. Likewise, studying energy conservation can help the city better understand its geothermal resources and springs and how to utilize those better.
Risch said a high priority project on the upcoming council's agenda should be remodeling of the hot springs pool, which is going on 90 years old now and is at risk as far as infrastructure goes. Reconstruction and repairs to the pool are something Risch intends to push for and help with.
Overall, Risch is positive about his experience as mayor and with council, but he is also excited about what the future has in store for the city as well as himself.
“I feel very positive about the new council… It’s going to be a great council and I expect a lot from them,” he said.
A retired Jefferson County astronomy teacher, the Ouray native is looking forward to the break from his long-held role and to traveling with his wife, Karen, who has been highly supportive during his time in office. The pair will spend their Christmas in Hawaii and after that Risch said he’s looking forward to visiting other warm places.
However, Risch will be back and continue to be involved in city affairs at the citizen level. After all, the more time he spends away from Ouray, the more he realizes what a special place it is, he said.