Guest commentary: Reflecting on former Routt Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and public service

Tim Corrigan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Former Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak was known for her deep knowledge of county issues and her commitment to serving the residents she represented. Stahoviak died Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Recent news of the passing of former Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak got me thinking about the value and purpose of public service.

Those of us who knew Nancy understood the passion and commitment she brought to her work each day. Her efforts not only enhanced Routt County and made it a better place for all of us to live but shaped her life, as well. While Nancy was clearly motivated to help her fellow citizens, I know she took great pride in her work and felt a deep sense of satisfaction in her own accomplishments.

I have served as an elected official — first on my school board and now as county commissioner — in Routt County for the past 20 years, and while there has been no shortage of tribulations in that time, I have never regretted making this commitment.

From making decisions about school curriculum to hiring essential personnel and guiding planning processes through constructing facilities to serve our citizens, I have come to appreciate the importance of public service.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan.
Courtesy photo

It is unfortunate that public service in the context of national partisan politics has somehow become viewed as a contemptible occupation. Space for a respectable exchange of ideas has become occupied by name-calling and questioning of people’s motives.

Careful consideration of pressing issues has been replaced by Twitter feeds and sensationalized reporting. While the pandemic may have exacerbated these problems, we have struggled for some time with maintaining basic decency in our discussions. It is no wonder that people might be discouraged from seeking opportunities to engage in public service at the risk of being ostracized.

Fortunately, here in Routt County, people are by and large respectful and willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those willing to serve. There are many opportunities to serve your community that don’t involve running for election.

In Routt County alone, you can serve on the Fair Advisory Board, Historic Preservation Board, Museum and Heritage Advisory Board, Planning Commission, Purchase of Development Rights Board and the Yampa Valley Airport Commission to name just a few. Similar opportunities exist in Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa.

Public service is not limited to elected office or appointed boards and commissions. If you coach youth sports, volunteer in our schools or serve on the board of one of our many wonderful nonprofit organizations, you are engaged in public service. If you are employed in law enforcement, military services, health care, local government, education or a social care organization, you are engaged in public service.

At its core, public service is the way we demonstrate our care for each other and how a democratic society best functions. On an individual level, it can provide the opportunity to act on your desire to contribute to society and create a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing you made a measurable difference in the lives of others.

I know it can be hard to find the time to devote to these activities, but I encourage everyone to make the effort to become engaged in your community. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

Tim Corrigan is a Routt County commissioner.

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