From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):
Now, after 18 years on the city’s Board of Water Works, Jim Gardner, 85, won’t be seeking reelection…
“I’m old,” Gardner said with a laugh. “But I can shoot my age in golf and I want to spend more time going that.”
When a vacancy on the water board opened up in 1999, Gardner was appointed by City Council to fill the slot.
He said frequent conversations with a friend — well-known civic activist and longtime water board member Bud Whitlock — helped spur his interest in water and related issues.
“Mr. Whitlock would talk about it all the time as being very important,” Gardner said. “And water is an engineering type thing and I’m interested in that kind of stuff.”
After his appointed term ended in 2000, Gardner chose to run for the seat and was successful in obtaining it — a pattern he repeated for three terms.
Along the way, Gardner said he “really got to know Alan Hamel,” the longtime executive director at Board of Water Works of Pueblo. “And he was a good guy to work with.
“One of the first things I remember is working with Alan to reduce the cost of operation in the water department. I thought we were spending too much money on the buildings and so forth. And we got that done.”
Another cause Gardner championed was the filling of key department positions with local, rather than out-of-the-area, talent.
“People were retiring, especially from important sections,” Gardner explained. “And Alan came to a meeting one day and said, ‘We will have do a big search for a financial director,’ and so forth.
“And I said, ‘You know Alan, I think we can find them all right here in town.’ And Alan did just that — he never went outside out of town again.
“It’s important that they use local people who are qualified,” he said.
Now that he is stepping down, Gardner has offered his endorsement to Sandy Gutierrez, who just announced her intention to run for the open board seat.
“I’ve known her over the years to be a level-headed person,” he said. “And she will learn a lot working with the board.”
A board, by the way, that Gardner praised as being top shelf.
“I’m proud to say that we worked to get a good board and today we have a first-class board. It’s very cohesive,” Gardner said. “They all have good heads. No one carries an agenda to the board. They listen to the staff, which I also will say is first-class.
“It’s amazing how well we work together.”
One of the major acquisitions Gardner played an instrumental role in is the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch.
“That goes back years ago, during the drought of 2001, 2002,” Gardner said. “And I was worried about the Western Slope curtailing our water through the mountains.
“And I said, ‘We’ve got to buy more native water.'”
And the city did just that, securing 32 percent of the Bessemer Ditch.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money but it’s native water, and the federal government can’t mess with us. Now, we’ve got a lot of water but we need security.”
On all levels, Gardner’s tireless efforts on behalf of the board are appreciated and will long be remembered.
“Jim got on the board shortly after I started working,” said Alan Ward, Pueblo Water’s water resources division manager. “So pretty much my whole career he’s been on the board.
“And he’s led us through some big capital projects like the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch. He’s dedicated a lot of years to us and he will be missed, I can tell you that.”
As an architect and principal in HGF Architects, Inc., Gardner’s elaborate handiwork can be seen throughout the region — from Buell Children’s Museum/Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center to Pueblo Community College’s Academic Center and Learning Facility to the Pueblo City-County Health Department building.