Wilbur Flachman: A man for all seasons

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 9/30/20

We recently lost a good friend, outstanding Rotarian, successful businessman, active Westminster community supporter, husband, father, grandfather and a lot of other descriptors. He wore a lot of …

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Wilbur Flachman: A man for all seasons

Posted

We recently lost a good friend, outstanding Rotarian, successful businessman, active Westminster community supporter, husband, father, grandfather and a lot of other descriptors. He wore a lot of different hats and was a man for all seasons.

Many irons in the fire

Wilbur was one of us Midwestern transplants who came to Colorado and liked what he saw and found.

Born, raised and educated in Iowa, Wilbur Flachman and his wife Marilyn came to Westminster in 1961 in route to a newspaper job interview in Monte Vista, Colorado. They stopped here to visit friends on the way. They never left town which was beneficial for our community!

He learned of an opening as editor for the weekly Westminster Journal. He was interviewed and hired on the spot, launching a 50-plus year entrepreneurial career of newspapering and specialty magazine publishing.

Wilbur’s newspaper and printing office was always a beehive of activity. Whether it was talking politics, writing a clear-spoken editorial, conducting publishing business, arranging one of his famous horse-pack trips or organizing activities for the Rotary Club of Westminster, you knew where to find him. He was a good friend, an avid racquetball opponent and a fellow St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan.

Newspaper and publishing focus

He and Marilyn have resided, worked and contributed in many ways to Westminster for the past 59 years. Wilbur is a newspaper kind of guy through and through, you cannot help but wonder if he had ink in his veins. Subsequent to being the Westminster Journal’s editor, he went on to become owner and publisher of the newspaper that later became the Westminster Window.

Side-by-side with the newspaper business, he established the Publishing House which specializes in in-theater printed programs. During many years since 1972, the publishing company annually provided more than two million in-theater magazines to Denver arts enthusiasts.

Part cowboy at heart

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his horse pack trips in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. These outings spanned 45 years and were a favorite with hundreds of friends, Midwest relatives, Colorado business associates and fellow Rotarians. Camping, fishing, storytelling and much more took place. His true persona, Buford T. Clapsaddle, was known to all who rode in the saddle with him up on the Flat Tops Wilderness area. There was always a certain amount of cowboy in Wilbur.

Leadership in a friendly way

You would be hard pressed to find anyone more devoted to community service than Wilbur Flachman. He has headed up or served on more committees, task forces and boards of directors than you can shake a stick at.

One high achievement was serving nine years as the first chair of the Adams County Cultural Council, taking the lead in drafting funding criteria for all of the Tier III Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) organizations throughout the Denver metro area.

He was appointed by the Adams County Commissioners to serve on the Task Force which monitored the development of Denver International Airport during its construction. He served as Vice Chair of the Adams County Visual Arts Commission for eight years, working on over two dozen sculpture selection committees that funded and placed new art primarily in Westminster and Hyland Hills. He was an active and contributing member of the Rotary Club of Westminster for 53 years.

For over 30 of those years while serving on the Board of Directors, he and Marilyn have contributed a $2,000 media scholarship each year in conjunction with the club’s signature annual scholarship program. The Flachmans hosted 24 foreign exchange students in their home over the years. As fellow Rotarian Monte Quintana said, “Wilbur was the consummate Rotarian.”

Recognition for much community involvement

Wilbur has been honored and recognized in many ways. A few of these honors have been by his college, Wartburg College, newspaper organizations, Westminster Rotary Club and Rotary District, chambers of commerce, leadership award from the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District and was one of Westminster’s 100 “History Makers” featured in the 2011 centennial book. Earlier this month, he was honored and recognized as the 2020 Westminster Legacy Foundation’s Nancy Heil Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. It is the most prestigious award bestowed annually by the Foundation. His involvement and support in so many ways over the years has enhanced the livability and enrichment in Westminster.

Arts and culture a key focus

As you can readily see, arts and cultural activities have played a paramount role in Mr. Flachman’s life. Besides the already mentioned leadership positions, he and four other Westminster Rotarians established the Westminster Community Artist Series in 1983. Wilbur was the initiator of this organization which brought cultural and art programs to the north metro area. Today, it is known as the North Metro Arts Alliance. Also, he and his wife joined Dr. J. Heil and Mayor Nancy Heil in their gift of the sculpture “Story Time” located at the entrance to the College Hill Library.

A man for all seasons

Wilbur, we miss you with your quick wit, your tireless community support and involvement, your love of the arts and culture, “Service above Self” Rotarian commitment and giving of yourself. We see you have already saddled up and have crossed over to the other side. God bless you.

Recall could have been avoided

As readers of this column know, the recall of Mayor Atchison and city council members Seitz, Skulley and Voelz commenced on September 1 with the deadline to submit petitions by the close of business on November 2.

While it remains to be seen whether the recall group’s effort will succeed in forcing a special election of one or more of these elected officials, it clearly sends a message of frustration, anger and distrust held by citizens of these elected officials and the city manager.

In rebuttal, Council Seitz speaks of “her duty”, “staying within the rules”, “my responsibility to the community” and “we needed rate increases to repair and replace aging infrastructure.”

Well, that all sounds well and good. However, remember, the four on council including Ms. Seitz had the opportunity to prevent what has happened by rolling back the 2020 water rate increases before summer’s higher water consumption happened. Councilors Seymour, Smith and DeMott tried to roll back the rates.

Adding tiers

Furthermore, while I support a tiered water rate system for water conservation purposes, there is nothing to have prevented a fourth or fifth tiered rate structure. The present third tier ($12.88 per thousand gallons) is a killer after 20,000 gallons of water consumption. That could have been extended with something in-between $7.35 and $12.88 in an additional tier.

Water rates are not cast in concrete. It is not a science. It is a best guess approach since the rate-makers do not know what the weather will be like in advance in a given 12 or 24 month cycle. The rates in question were approved in October, 2018 by Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and then-councilors Shannon Bird and Emma Pinter. DeMott voted No and then-councilor Maria de Cambra was absent. So, be careful about “responsibility” and “staying within the rules.”

Tough row to hoe

While I won’t be signing any of the four recall petitions, I fully respect the right of citizens to recall elected officials for just causes. You will be the decider if high summer water bills are sufficient cause to hold a recall election of these elected officials.

Furthermore, if the recall effort fails, it still gives notice to a tough, combative 2021 election campaign for Seitz, Skulley and Voelz. Atchison is term limited and will be gone as of November, 2021.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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