Carbondale's community connector

Jerlilyn Nieslanik reflects on ranching, Crystal Meadows, changing times

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The Sopris Sun is conducting a series of interviews with folks you may not have seen in the paper before – a sort of introduction to your neighbors. This week we caught up with Jerilyn Nieslanik, the Manager at Crystal Meadows Carbondale Housing Authority and local rancher.

Q: Are you originally from Carbondale?

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A: No, I was born in Fort Collins and then we moved to Glenwood Springs when I was in seventh grade. I have five older sisters and no brothers. I was the boy of the family — probably the orneriest too.

Q: What did you do after high school?

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A: I went to college on a softball scholarship to Mesa State. My father had a Chilton’s Sporting Goods store in Grand Junction and when I was not at  school I worked in that store. After three years of college I came back to Glenwood and opened my own athletic store, Ultimate Athletics, when I was 20 years old. Six months later I got married.

Q: How did you meet your husband?

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A: I had met Marty my senior year in high school and thought he was a dreamboat. We met at this party and he told me he had to go change his water. He said he’d be back in three hours. I didn’t know he was referring to irrigating and thought he was totally blowing me off because I would go to our house and turn off the hose and turn it back on in fifteen minutes so… Still, the first summer I came back from college we met again at a softball game and started to date.

Q: How has the town of Carbondale changed over the years?

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A: When I first came here, you didn’t have any stop signs on Main Street, you didn’t have any roundabouts. It was a very close-knit farm community. It was a double edged sword, if you did anything everybody knew about it but they would also come and help you if you needed it. Now I don’t hardly know anybody on the street. There’s not that much of the agriculture part left. It’s more tourism — one of the hot spots to come to in Colorado.

Q: What community event do you most enjoy in Carbondale?

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A: You know it sounds silly, but The Potato Day Parade was one of my favorite things back in the day. I have a great memory of Parker (Jerilyn’s son) and Grandpa John (Jerilyn’s father-in-law), he was the Marshal of the Parade, and he took Parker with him and they started out the Parade on their horses. There is  this great photo of them both where you can tell John is as proud as a peacock. I also like the Fourth of July Parade. I participate in that every year still with the seniors and it’s super fun.

Q: What do you do for a living?

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A: I manage Carbondale Housing Authority, Crystal Meadows, on Hendrick Drive.

Q: How long have you been doing that?

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A: For 24 years. When I started there were just 16 units and it was a part time job. Now we have 79 units. We grew. Crazy as this is my father-in-law, John, and Dorthy Marshall started that whole thing. They bought the land from Doc Hendrick, that’s why it’s on Hendrick Drive. He sold them that lot for ten bucks as a donation. 

Q: Is there anything new happening at  Crystal Meadows you would like to share?

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A: It’s not set in stone yet but we’ve been working on a grant from DOLA (Colorado Department of Local Affairs). It’s a remodeling grant to improve windows, boilers, roofs, carpeting, countertops et cetera. The buildings are getting old. The first ones were built in 1989 so we need to do an upgrade. We’re going to submit the grant hopefully Aug. 1 and…keep your fingers crossed.

Q: Are you the only paid employee at Crystal Meadows?

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A: We have a maintenance man too — that’s it. So there are two employees for 79 units.

Q: What is your favorite part about the job?

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A: The people. Yeah, they’re just a hoot. There are some strong, strong, strong people there who have been through a lot. Their stories are fascinating. It feels like I’m kind of living life backwards. I’ve gone through the depression era from the first people who were there and now I’m in Woodstock (laughs), I don’t know what the next season will bring.

Q: What is your role at Nieslanik Beef?

A: I do the books, feed, do chores and help out however else I can.

Q: What is your favorite chore?

A: My favorite chore would probably be feeding up at the barn because no matter how many times you do it, if you just stop and look it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. It’s amazing. In the wintertime, the hay is green and the steam from the cattle’s’ nostrils is coming out and if you stop and listen you can hear them all crunching — oh gosh it’s just cool.

Q: What do you like to do for fun around Carbondale?

A: Being that I work full time in town and ranching is a full time job I don’t go out and do anything that much fun in Carbondale. I ride my bike to work (laughs). My fun is when I come home and work in my flower bed. It’s very enjoyable…it’s calm, it’s quiet. I just come home and enjoy home.

Q: Tell me about raising a family on the Nieslanik Ranch?

A: It’s the one thing in Carbondale that hasn’t changed (laughs). Everything else can change around you but you come home and it’s like okay, this is still the way it’s supposed to be. I mean how lucky are we, I have a grandson now who is going to get raised here. He comes home to the same home my son, his dad, came home to. My kids, my family is the best thing I’ve ever done.

Q: Where is your favorite place to watch the sunset from?

A: Right from my home looking at Mount Sopris. My dad always said it’s a little slice of heaven up here.

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