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Montezuma County discusses succession process for ill Stevenson

Montezuma County Commissioner Joel “Joe” Stevenson is reportedly hospitalized with COVID-related complications. (Courtesy photo)
Commissioner hospitalized for COVID complications

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting Monday to discuss the process of filling a board vacancy in case Commissioner Joel Stevenson does not return to his job.

Stevenson remains hospitalized with complications from COVID-19 and has been transferred to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, according to family members and county officials.

He was admitted to a Southwest Memorial Hospital intensive care unit Dec. 31 with a diagnosis of COVID-19 and viral pneumonia, according to his brother, Michael Stevenson. The family reported he was put on a ventilator Jan. 4 and transferred to St. Mary’s.

Stevenson’s family reported late Sunday he has “taken a sharp turn for the worse,” said County Administrator Shak Powers in an email sent to county staff members Monday.

Stevenson is being ventilated 100%, and the medical teams have not been able to bring his oxygen saturation above 60%, according to the email.

Stevenson, a Republican representing District 3 in Mancos, was elected in November to a four-year commissioner term that began in 2021.

During a public meeting Monday, 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.

Aug 13, 2022
Montezuma County commissioner hospitalized with COVID-related complications

According to state statute, when a vacancy occurs, 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.

“This is for the worst-case scenario, we hope we don’t have to implement it,” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria of the vacancy process.

According to state statute, a vacancy for an elected position officially occurs in a number of ways, which starts the 15-day appointment clock, said Assistant District Attorney Will Furse of the 22nd Judicial District.

An office becomes officially vacant on the elected incumbent’s death, resignation, move outside of the district or refusal to take the state oath, among other reasons.

If the incumbent is incapacitated by illness, physical disability or mental illness and unable to perform the job, an official vacancy by incapacity can be declared through a judicial process after six months, Furse said.

If an elected official has not performed his duties for six months, a hearing is held and a district judge rules on whether the position is officially vacant because the incumbent is incapacitated, then the 15-day appointment clock begins.

Montezuma County Republican Party Chairman Allen Maez said the committee will meet next week to “go over the process in the hopes it will not be necessary.”

Candelaria and Commissioner Kent Lindsay will meet with the Mancos Town Board at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mancos Town Hall to provide an update about Stevenson.

“Our thoughts are with Commissioner Stevenson,” Lindsay said. “Given the situation, we needed to find out about this process, and it is very uncomfortable.”

A dessert/basket auction to benefit Stevenson and his family originally scheduled at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Cortez Livestock Auction has been postponed, county public information officer Vicki Shaffer said late Monday. She did not provide an update about his condition.

According to a Facebook post late Monday from Stevenson’s daughter, Jodi Loyd, the family is visiting him in Grand Junction, and the benefit was postponed to allow for more time to prepare.

Loyd said Stevenson had a “rough night” last night and had a “better day.”

“I know he is fighting with all his might,” Loyd said.