By Gail Marvel

MONTROSE-Jose Abeyta was raised in Delta, served two years in the military and received a college degree in sociology, with an emphasis on psychology. During high school Jose participated in sports, but he avoided activities such as student council. “You have to go back to the day. People of Hispanic heritage were not accepted into a lot of things … and I didn’t think I was electable, so I never tried.”

On a career path in criminal justice Jose moved to Montrose in 1978 where he worked for the 7th Judicial District. Under the direction of the courts he started the Community Corrections Board and after 17 years with the District he retired as the Chief Probation Officer.

Jose has served on the boards of MADA and Mental Health as well as being elected to serve on Montrose City Council (2006-2010). While he no longer has political aspirations, Jose said, “Not that I wouldn’t like to, but my health won’t allow me to run for another elected office.” Jose continues to build good relationships with elected officials on all levels of government — local, state and federal. “I like to stay connected and I call them to talk about issues.”

Jose also makes an effort to stay up with what’s going on in the community. “I wouldn’t say that I’m a watchdog, but I am a concerned citizen. I guess I’d like to think I’m a person who doesn’t overreact, but when I hear about an issue I research it and get the facts.” Having the facts holds Jose in good stead, “As long as I speak factually I can’t embarrass myself and there is nothing to be afraid of. Someone may not like me or my opinion, but I revert back to the facts because the issue is still the same.”

When Jose served on City Council he had community support, “I think I had a good reputation and people listened to me. I’ve had people disagree with me, but never attack me [verbally in public].” Since Jose no longer has an official title he feels there are times when his message is discounted because of the messenger. He laughed and said, “Is that an example of shooting the messenger?” Jose does take advantage of the call-to-the-public with issues he wants to bring before elected officials. His latest suggestion is for the Montrose City Council to implement cultural sensitivity training for city employees. “This is not a Hispanic issue, but covers gender, age and new transplants moving into the area.”

Even though groups have asked Jose to be a spokesperson, on most issues he speaks as an individual. “People come to me to complain because they want someone else to do something about a situation. People need to take ownership on issues. I can’t fight someone else’s battle for them. I’ll help them get the tools they need to speak up, but I can’t do it for them. You just need to have your facts and be prepared!”

Jose often blames the community for what’s going on.” We elect officials and then we forget we [too] have responsibilities. We’re strong to criticize the government, but what is the government if it isn’t US!”