GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — John Justman and Rose Femia Pugliese are outgoing term-limited commissioners, saying goodbye after serving two terms of four years (Jan. 2013 – Jan. 2017 and Jan. 2017 – Jan. 2021). Their last official day is Jan. 12, when the new commissioners get sworn into office.
Since 2013, both commissioners have dealt with a wide range of topics, including but not limited to: birds, budget, child welfare, conservation easements, economic development, public lands, and roads. They oversaw two of the biggest natural disasters in the county’s history: the 2014 West Salt Creek Landslide, which claimed three lives, and recently the Pine Gulch Fire, which burned over 139,000 acres and became one of the largest fires in Colorado history.
Let’s recap how Justman and Femia Pugliese served their eight years in office.
Most recently, Mesa County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve an update to the entire Mesa County Land Development Code, which provided a more user-friendly document that streamlined submittal and review processes and instituted realistic and achievable design, landscape and development standards.
“Rose and I, along with a group of residents, worked on updating the Land Development Code to make it more business-friendly, and it has been one of our priorities since we took office,” Justman said.
“Reducing land development code regulations and streamlining processes will help boost the economy,” Femia Pugliese added. “My goal has been to make sure that I left a guiding document that will help Mesa County not just through my term, but one that will continue to help Mesa County for many years to come.”
During the past eight years, commissioners have seen a lot of action and presided over:
- construction of the Palisade Plunge Trail;
- progress toward the new 29 Road interchange;
- voter-approval to exempt state grants from Tabor;
- relocation of the BLM headquarters;
- road projects too numerous to name, and
- countless economic development projects.
In short, they widened the effective reach of Mesa County government to fulfill essential services without overreaching. Countless projects were achieved using conservative budgeting practices that helped keep the county afloat during some of the most challenging budgetary times.
However, both commissioners agree their biggest challenges were budgetary hardships.Other highlights include the relocation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters.
“We fought for years to have Grand Junction become the headquarters for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management,” Femia Pugliese said. “So we collaborated with our local, state, and federal partners, and we made it happen!”
While Femia Pugliese will be leaving for Colorado Springs, Justman plans to stay active in community issues.
“My eight years in office have gone by fast,” Justman added. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Mesa County.”
Femia Pugliese said, “Thank you for allowing me to represent you as your County Commissioner. I am forever grateful for your support and the confidence you entrusted in me.”
Replacing the two commissioners are Cody Davis, District 1, and former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, District 3.