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COVID-19 and Trust in Governments in the Rural West

February 10, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic started slowly in the rural West, but more recently many rural regions have been overwhelmed. Understanding health risks, working with state officials to develop rules to slow the spread, and enforcing those rules have all evolved. To examine these decisions and the role played by local communities' trust in local government, Mike Boudreaux, the sheriff of Tulare County, California, along with Jeff Kuhr, the executive director of the health office in Mesa County, Colorado and Cindy Riegel, a county commissioner from Teton County, Idaho discuss their experiences. 

This program is inspired by reporting conducted by Lane Center Writer-in-Residence Felicity Barringer in a piece posted to the "...& the West" blog.

Panelists

Mike Boudreaux

Sheriff-Coroner, Tulare County

Mike Boudreaux was appointed Sheriff-Coroner of Tulare County by the Board of Supervisors on October 8, 2013. He successfully won his Campaign to be elected as the 30th Sheriff of Tulare County.

Mike began his career with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department at the age of 19 when he was hired as a cadet in 1986.

He was hired as a Sheriff’s Trainee in 1987 and sponsored through the Tulare- Kings County Police Academy. Upon graduation he was promoted to the rank of Deputy Sheriff I. Throughout his career Mike has worked a variety of assignments in both the Detentions Division and the Operations Division. Mike rose through the ranks and in 2013 was promoted by Sheriff Bill Wittman to the position of Undersheriff, which is the second in command of the Department.

He has received National attention for his efforts in combating illegal marijuana trafficking, drug cartels and drug trafficking organizations, and was invited to the oval office to meet with then President George Bush.

Mike holds a certificate in criminology and the administration of justice, and an Associate of Science degree in the administration of justice. He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology and management, and a Master’s degree with course of study in the administration of justice.


Jeff Kuhr, PhD
Executive Director, Mesa County Public Health

Dr. Jeff Kuhr works as director of the Mesa County Public Health,  serving 154,000 residents on Colorado’s Western Slope. He is an active participant in statewide policy and program development, serving on the Colorado Board of Human Services and the Colorado Early Childhood Leadership Commission. In Grand Junction, he serves on the boards of directors for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation. Jeff has a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Nebraska and is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. He has been a local public health director for 18 years.
 

 

 

 


Cindy Riegel
Chair of the Board of County Commissioners and County Commissioner, Teton County, ID

Cindy Riegel is serving her third term as a County Commissioner for Teton County, Idaho. She was inspired to run for office in 2014 to help the quiet side of the Tetons retain its rural character and real people. 

Born and raised in upstate New York, Cindy moved to Wyoming after college to work on a peregrine falcon reintroduction project. She was first introduced to the politics of the rural west while engaging in conversations at the Lander Bar during occasional breaks from her remote campsite. This was followed by a 10 year career in wildlife biology and field ecology.
Raising three children (currently ages 10-16) inspired Cindy to get involved in the start-up of two educational institutions in Teton Valley, Idaho: a project-based preK-8 school and a farm and garden education nonprofit. Aside from loving her job as a County Commissioner, Cindy enjoys human-powered outdoor activities and experimenting in the kitchen with her kids.
 
 

Moderator

Felicity Barringer
Writer-in-Residence, Bill Lane Center for the American West

Felicity Barringer was a national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times. She provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction carbon policies. More recently she focused on the West’s water challenges. Earlier, she covered the United Nations and worked as a correspondent in Moscow. Her career began at The Bergen Record; she worked at The Washington Post for nine years.