Montezuma County Commissioner Joel Stevenson died Tuesday evening after being hospitalized for three weeks with a COVID-related illness.
“This is the hardest thing we will ever have to do, and most of you have already called or text, but we lost our sweet daddy yesterday,” stated his daughter Jodi Loyd in a Facebook post at 11 a.m. Wednesday. “He fought like hell and was surrounded by family! His love for his family, friends, and community runs deep. We know he is at peace with our lord and that he had a glorious reunion in heaven last night!”
County Administrator Shak Powers said he had no further information other than the family Facebook post.
“It is a somber mood here. We are just trying to get through the day,” he said.
Powers released the following email to staff:
“Commissioner Stevenson was a friend and mentor to many in the county. He valued the efforts of county employees and worked to reward them. He valued the plight of the citizens of Montezuma County and worked to be sure their concerns were heard and their tax dollars were spent wisely. We grieve with Joel’s family during this incredibly difficult time and ask that everyone respect their privacy.”
“I really enjoyed working with him. In his short time as commissioner, he was turning into a great leader for the community,” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria.” We have lost a friend. Our condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Stevenson, 57, was hospitalized Dec. 31 with COVID-related illness, according to family and county officials.
Michael Stevenson said his brother felt he was catching a cold then had difficulty breathing on Dec. 26 and went to the hospital. He was diagnosed with viral pneumonia and sent home with oxygen and medication. A COVID test came back positive on Dec. 28, and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital the next day and placed in intensive care.
The family reported he was put on a ventilator Jan. 4 and transferred to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction. The place of death was not available.
A memorial service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 31, at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds Indoor Arena, according to the Ertel Funeral Home. Glen Randol will officiate.
Stevenson, a Republican representing District 3 in Mancos, was elected in November to a four-year commissioner term that began in 2021.
According to Colorado law, the process to fill Commissioner Stevenson’s seat is overseen by the Montezuma County Republican Central Committee.
During a public meeting Jan. 10, the commissioners met with Jan Gardner and Allen Maez of the Montezuma County Republican Central Committee to discuss roles and responsibilities for filling a vacant commissioner’s position.
According to state statute, when a vacancy occurs from a death, the commissioner’s elected party has 10 days to convene a vacancy committee and appoint a replacement from the Mancos district, said county attorney Ian MacLaren. The vote must be a majority.
If the commissioner’s party fails to do so within the 10 days, then the Colorado governor will have an additional five days to appoint the commissioner’s replacement. The person appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of county commissioner shall be a member of the same political party, if any, as the vacating commissioner.
The person appointed will serve until the next general election in November, then the seat will be up for election.
Maez stated during the Jan. 10 meeting that a vacancy committee is in place and was preparing to choose a replacement.
“It is sad news,” he said of Stevenson’s passing.
He declined to immediately respond to questions on the appointment process.
“We will work through the process, visit with the commissioners, utilize the time. I don’t have a comment now out of respect for the family,” Maez said.
According to state statutes on filling a vacancy, the Montezuma County Republican Party vacancy committee must call a meeting for the purpose of appointing a replacement, said Assistant District Attorney Will Furse. The appointment must be made within 10 days of the vacancy, which is Jan. 28.
When that meeting will be was not available.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.