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Rays leaving behind their home of nine years

Jane Reuter

SILVERTHORNE – Robert and Fran Penner Ray believe their lives in Summit County have come full circle.

Robert started his job with Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) on June 1, 1993. He leaves it exactly nine years later on May 31.

Fueled by her opposition to the Silverthorne Super Wal-Mart, Fran campaigned for and won a seat on the town council in April of 1998. Last week, she scooped a ceremonial shovel of dirt to herald the Target groundbreaking.

It’s a fitting way, they think, to end their time here. The family, which includes the couple’s two teen-aged children, will move in June to Helena, Mont.

Robert has accepted a job there as a watershed management section supervisor with the state of Montana. He will help repair waterways that are in poor shape, much as he did in Silverthorne in his job with NWCCOG.

“It was time for a change,” Robert said. “Sometimes, you need to get pushed into change.”

Funding for Robert’s position with NWCCOG has been growing increasingly more tenuous, and he did not see the situation improving. Last fall, he began searching for other jobs. Ideally, he had hoped to find a position in Summit County, but instead, he landed one in Montana.

He leaves for Helena at the end of the month. Fran, who teaches English to non-English-speaking students at Dillon Valley Elementary, will move with the children in late June.

“We’re greatly sad to leave,” Fran said, “but possibilities are taking us out of the state.”

Both Rays have been actively involved in Summit County; Robert serving on the county’s open space committee and the Lower Blue Planning Commission, and Fran immersing herself in Silverthorne politics.

“I’ve heard people say we’ve made a significant difference,” Robert said.

Fran was recently elected to a second term on the council, a position she said she would not have sought had she known the family was leaving the county. Nevertheless, she said she’s enjoyed her time as a council member.

“I think truly the perspective I brought to town council was different,” she said. “I don’t have any qualms with labeling myself an environmentalist or a feminist. We worked well together as a team on town council. There was a lot of respect. That doesn’t always happen for women in politics.”

Better still, Fran said, she can look around the town and see physical proof of the council’s work.

“I look at the pavilion and the library as two of the best things we did because they bring people together,” she said. “It’s also the little things. When I saw the plans for the women’s bathroom in the pavilion, I said, “We don’t need as many sinks as toilets.’ And because of that comment, they changed the plans.”

As a result, a line in the women’s restroom at the pavilion is rarely an issue.

“I’m proud of that,” Fran said.

“I think I made a difference in the work I was doing, too,” Robert said. “The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments was really satisfying.”

He pointed specifically to a wetlands and water quality protection project he coordinated with the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne.

Fran’s last meeting with the Silverthorne Council is Wednesday.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge for the council to figure out who’s a right fit for my seat,” she said. “And I think the council will need to reconcile some differences.”

Despite the couple’s involvement in politics here, neither of the Rays plan to become politically active in Helena, a city of 35,000.

Robert said his job will be sufficiently political. And Fran said she would be satisfied with serving on a library board.

“I told (son) Cullen I would advocate for a disc golf course if they don’t have one,” she said.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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