GREELEY — Just a month after taking office as Weld County’s newest commissioner, former Johnstown Mayor and country radio disk jockey Scott James, is making the most of a Keurig machine in his O Street office.
Despite putting in 16- to 20-hour days most of the time, the 56-year old James says that he couldn’t have painted a better picture for his life than the one he is living now.
“I love my work,” James said. “I’m still learning every day. Thirty plus days in, things are finally starting to sound familiar, and I’m not getting lost in the admin building anymore. I’m the only new guy, so there is a lot of background stuff for me to read, but I’m a nerdy geek that way, so I get a kick out of learning stuff.”
James, a Republican, was elected with 65 percent of the vote over his Democrat opponent in November, but it was his primary election that drew the most controversy. After announcing his intent to run against then incumbent Republican Julie Cozad, who eventually chose to withdraw from the election, former Greeley City Councilman Mike Finn jumped into the race.
The Finn/James primary was nasty at times. Finn — a Cozad supporter who intentionally moved across districts to run against James — eventually filed an equal air-time complaint with James’ primary employer, iHeart Media.
Equal time laws generally mean that television and radio stations can’t charge one political candidate more for advertising than an another. However, Finn alleged James was using his role as one half of the Scott and Sadie Show in the morning on Big Country 97.9 FM to advance his campaign.
iHeart eventually offered Finn 250 minutes of air time, but Finn declined. James won the primary with 58 percent of the vote.
His November victory didn’t stop James from continuing to head into work at times when his fellow commissioners are likely just starting to fall into a deep sleep.
James is up each morning at 2 a.m. to prepare for his show before heading into the studio by 4 a.m. On most mornings, he’s at his county office by 8 a.m., having prerecorded portions of the show he will miss. He finally settles down for the day on most nights around 6 or 7 p.m. he said. If he has evening commitments as a commissioner, it’s even later.
“People ask me all the time how I survive two jobs,” James said. “But I don’t have two jobs. The Good Lord equips us with skill sets. My skill sets are communication and serving people, and they go hand in hand with what I do.”
James said he never planned to stay full time at the station after he was elected. When he met with his employers after being elected he thought he might move to part-time in some capacity, but the morning show’s popularity was such that they were able to work out the flexibility he needed to stay on full-time.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared to choose if he must at some point.
“I fully understand being County Commissioner is my full-time job,” James said. “If I ever thought I was not doing a good job, I’d give up radio in a minute.”
Many previous commissioners have continued their full-time jobs while serving on the board.
James also addressed concerns about possible conflict of interest because of endorsements he puts his name on for the station.
“Of course, I’ll disclose and recuse,” he said. “But anybody is going to have to recuse themselves from time to time because of relationships. Mine are just a little more public.”
James is most excited about his department assignments. He oversees the human services and planning departments.
“I did not understand the scope of human services,” he said. “It has been so much fun to learn how the county helps families. I wanted human services, but I never thought I’d get both.”
His role as mayor of Johnstown, one of Colorado’s fastest growing towns, prepared him for overseeing planning, and he understands the importance of non-traditional families; he and his wife Julie adopted their son.
“We need to fight for foster families,” he said. “We need more foster families.”
Holding down two jobs has led to some very long days, he said, but so far, he’s not worried.
“At the end of the day, I don’t care,” he said. “You do what you’re supposed to do. It’s not tiring to me. In fact, it’s energizing.”
He said his wife is one of the main reasons he’s able to keep doing what he loves.
“My wife is a saint,” he said. “She knows I love what I do, but she also knows she has to share me, and bless her heart, she does.”
And there is that instant shot of caffeine at his fingertips in his county office to help keep him going — and stay in touch with his constituents.
“I’m just as easy to get a hold of now as I was when I was mayor,” James said. “I have a pretty sweet Keurig in my office. Stop by for a cup of coffee.”