Colorado Gov. Polis accepts resignation of First Gentleman’s activist friend

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An animal activist named by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to the Board of Veterinary Medicine has resigned after exchanging insulting comments about farmers and ranchers with Boulder’s Marlon Reis.

Reis is the governor’s spouse, Colorado’s “First Gentleman,” and a friend of animal activist Ellen Kessler. She filled a citizen position on the Board of Veterinary Medicine. Her resignation becomes effective Feb. 11.

Kessler responded to a Facebook post from Reis on Jan. 19 by calling farmers and ranchers “lazy and nasty.” The starting point for the discussion was from Montana’s Missoulian newspaper about a collaboration program for ranchers who deal with grizzly bears.

Referring to recent attacks by newly introduced wolves in Northern Colorado on cattle, Kessler claimed ranchers used their cows to “bait” wolves to receive compensation for the loss of their animals.

“These techniques could easily translate into activism in Colorado for soon-to-be-introduced wolves and other predators already living among us,” Kessler wrote. “Would our lazy and nasty ranchers/cattlemen even raise a finger to make something like this work, or is using a cow to bait the wolves their solution? A living cow doesn’t make money for them. Only a dead cow does. If the slaughterhouse doesn’t pay them for the carcass, they’ll blame the predators, so the state will pay them for livestock lost from predators. What a racket. What a scam.”

The first the governor likely heard about the Facebook comments came on Jan. 21 during his participation in a Voice of Rural Colorado meeting where he was confronted with demands for Kessler’s resignation from the vet board.

Kessler turned in her letter of resignation by Monday, and the governor’s office immediately released it.

“The Governor appreciates that Ms. Kessler has taken responsibility for the impact of her hurtful words,” the statement released by the office said. “He looks forward to selecting a veterinary board member that better shares his strong respect for Colorado’s hard-working ranchers and helps build confidence in the practice of veterinary medicine across our state.”

For her part, Kessler’s resignation letter said: ” I realize that some of my actions have caused anger and discomfort, and I was unprofessional in my judgment.” It went on to offer her apology to Polis and “the citizens of our great state.”

During five terms in Congress, Polis actively participated in the bipartisan “Food Freedom” caucus. He briefly was criticized for supporting “Meat Out Nonday” events during his first term as governor. The governor began sharing his family recipe for beef brisket to balance things out.

Polis named Kessler to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine in 2020. Her term was to run until 2024 as one of two “public” members on the seven-person board. Five of the seven members are licensed, veterinarians.

The Board does not regulate or require the registration of veterinary technicians or grant licenses based upon specialty.

Board activities include licensing veterinarians, investigating complaints about the licensed and unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine, disciplining violators of the law and Board’s Rules, and making, amending, and adopting reasonable rules and regulations that govern the conduct of veterinarians.

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