Book 1: Chapter 1:  MAELSTROM

“Oh my God,” I heard my self say. Here in our new home town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, I am attending a meeting of the local Health Service District Board. Citizens in the audience are shouting angrily at the board members. The chairman is hurling back surly retorts. Board members at the fold-up tables up front sit motionless, puppet-like. A burly policeman is escorting one of the agitated audience toward the exit at the chairman’s behest. I muse that instead of a sedate town meeting I must be in the midst of a Saturday night bar room brawl.

Later I read the apt words of a reporter for the local newspaper describing these meetings as “… a circus without the benefit of cotton candy or elephants.”

Seeking a meaningful new life just six months before, I had thrust myself into the midst of this maelstrom not knowing what to anticipate but certainly not expecting the theatrics that were now swirling about me.

After 44 years of an urban life and medical practice, my wife Patti and I had retired and moved to this small mountain town in Colorado. We had always relished the outdoor life from afar and had skied and hiked when we could squeeze it into our busy work schedules. Now that it was at our doorstep, we had immediately immersed ourselves into this new environment, joining the local outdoor clubs and participating in their activities. Personally, I had been looking forward to this new lifestyle all my working life.

I had expected retirement from my years of practicing medicine to be an emotionally rewarding experience. I realized that there would no longer be the challenge or the gratification that comes from solving patient problems, but instead that I would finally have the time to do all those things that had been put off until retirement. I had always thought that the latter would outweigh the former. I would finally be able to relax after decades of work and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Alas, rather than an emotional high, retirement for me had turned out to be a letdown. I had enjoyed my work; it was enlivening. The rewards in retirement so far did not measure up to this level. Realization was setting in; I needed more purpose in my life, a feeling that had been lost in retirement. So I began seeking something that could replace the stimulation I had experienced in my medical practice, hence, my quiet appearance at this “circus without benefit of cotton candy or elephants.”

It was now the fall of 2002. I was becoming concerned by a health care controversy that was erupting in our community. From articles in the local newspaper, particularly in the letters-to-the-editor section, it was clear that considerable anger and animosity were building within the community toward the Health Service District. Perhaps, with my experience in health care, I might be able to help in solving this health care dilemma and simultaneously assuage my need for a more purposeful fulfillment in life.

And so, with little more thought, I entered into one of those unexpected lifetime experiences that occasionally come one’s way; daunting, challenging, perhaps even rewarding. I had no idea of the emotional swings I would experience or of the challenges my character and reputation were to face. ...













Book 2: Chapter 1: THE ELECTION

The day of the election finally arrived. In the evening our candidates, friends and supporters met at a local restaurant, the Office Lounge, for cocktails, a buffet dinner, and to await the election results. The place was mobbed. The atmosphere was electric, alive and anticipatory but tinged with a little reserve as we all knew that nothing was certain until the "fat lady sings."

The polls closed at 7 pm, but it would take several hours for the ballots to be counted. Because there were two opposing forces, we had set up poll watchers throughout the day and had observers present during the counting of the ballots. We were taking no chance for any hanky-panky to occur.

Embers were glowing in the fireplace at the "Lounge," but the sun was still out and it was warm enough for the crowd to flow out onto the deck. There I bumped into Norm Vance. We reminisced back to 2002 when he began his efforts to get a new board of directors. This had been a very stressful time for both of us, but more so for Norm because his wife, Ruth, had lost her job with the clinic resignation. As I mentioned previously, she had joined with Susan, the nurse practitioner, to open the Women's Clinic. We agreed that this showed that good people could rise above a disaster and come out on top. Jim and I had then been handed the baton by Norm, and we had brought it to this night. After reminiscing with quite a few friends, Jim and I took a nostalgic trip back a year to when we had first begun this journey: the mass clinic resignation, the attempt to open a new private clinic, the EMS debacle. I left out my run-in with Wally, it not being something to remember. Jim's master plan had brought us to this point. Would we win tonight to culminate the efforts of so many people?

This was now two weeks after the LWV meeting, and I was feeling somewhat stronger physically. Still the recovery was taking longer than I had expected. Weakness and tiredness would still grip me late every afternoon to the extent that it was an effort to do anything other than to rest in the evening. However, I had waited for this evening for over a year, and I would literally rather have died than not be here.

About 9 pm, while we were standing around talking and waiting in anticipation, the telephone rang. All went quiet. Then a big cheer began to roll across the room. Our entire slate had won in a landslide. We had all received four times as many votes as the nearest other candidate, with Dr. Jim Pruitt garnering the most votes. In my joy I admit to a fleeting thought of the other camp and what they must be feeling: utter despair and disappointment I supposed.

The rest of the evening was one of joyous celebration with a lot of back-slapping, toasting and congratulations. ...

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