Inauguration day in a county that flipped blue to red

In small-town Colorado, mixed emotions about President Donald Trump.

 

During the 2016 presidential election, rural areas tended to vote Republican. In Huerfano County, Colorado, where the largest town, Walsenburg, has just over 3,000 residents, which used to be loyally blue, went red.

On January 20, 2017, while Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, we asked Walsenburg residents how they were feeling about America. Some were excited and hopeful to see a man who is outside the political norm take office, while others were worried about the precedents he would set. Here’s what they said in their own words:

Gaye Davis is the owner of Serendipity, a coffeeshop in downtown Walsenburg that opened in August 2016.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Gaye Davis

“Part of me is extremely optimistic, part of me is disappointed. The optimistic part is I think that we have someone, whether people agree with him or not, who certainly understands, surprisingly enough, the little guy, and especially the business entity of things. My disappointment is in people’s dramatic disgruntled approach to this. … Part of that, I feel, is because of some of our networks and some of our press. I think you have to look at things in perspective, and you have to be fair on all fronts. So to say that Trump is corrupt gives you the indication that Democrats are above reproach. My disappointment is that people are so unwilling to accept things and move forward. People nationally have not been able to do that.

“My hope is that we start seeing a redevelopment of infrastructure that is desperately needed. We’ll see more business development and that people will be more optimistic and will want to come into small communities and open a business, and make a go of it.”


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Brenda Maldonado, 51, lives in Walsenburg, where she takes care of her aging parents.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Brenda Maldonado, 51

“Actually I’m surprised I’m not completely grieving. I think I’ve had some time to process things a little bit. But it’s kind of a sad day to me. This man spent at least a year campaigning, and I think when you listen to what somebody says, you hear what’s in their heart. And what’s in his heart is a lot of divisive stuff. I think he hates and fears people from other countries, I think he fears people from other races, I think he fears people of other sexes. I think he is not decent enough to have compassion for disabled people. I think he’s the embodiment of a lot of ugliness. I think the most hurtful part about this to me is that it says a lot about our country to see that people would vote for such a monster, that people think that that’s acceptable in a leader. I don’t even think that’s acceptable in a schoolyard bully.

“Here is a town of people who are, I think we’re 25 percent on welfare. There’s a lot of people who are disabled, there’s a lot of elderly people who need a lot of benefits and help. People are so disenfranchised that they don’t even show up to vote.”


Stanley Mann, 84, is a retired lawyer and hosted the Huerfano County Republican Party potluck on Inauguration day at his home, Villa Jubilee. He often hosts Christian events in the 12,500-square-foot house.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Stanley Mann, 84

“(I’m) really excited. … I think that the people of America finally came together and said enough is enough. I think we’ve potentially got a president who owes nobody anything, and can possibly do some of the things he wants to do, because … he doesn’t have debt to pay to other politicians. He’s just himself. And I just pray that he will be the man that he appears to be, maybe not the man he’s been — because most of us don’t want to be the man we’ve been. So I hope that he turns out to be a good man.

“If you understood prophecy, you would understand that America’s lost. Prophetically, it does go down the tubes. … Now, is it gonna happen next year or 1000 years from now? I don’t know the answer to that. Prophecy is not that specific. It’s a hard question to answer because believing as I believe, in the long run it doesn’t matter anyway.

“I thought that (Trump) didn’t change his approach. He told us what he was going to do through the whole campaign. That’s why I say I hope he becomes the man that he presents himself to be. Has he been that in the past? Not by my estimation. … The thing that really does impress me is that he’s really surrounded himself with good people. Some really good people. If they can influence him and help him, he definitely has the nerve to make it happen. You know, he’s not afraid of anything. That’s been pretty obvious. … I’ve got positive vibes about America.”


Mary R. White is a member of the Huerfano County Republican Party. With a laugh, she says, "I’m a white woman, but I’m a PhD and a lawyer. So typical redneck."
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Mary R. White

“(I’m) much more hopeful. I feel that we’re going to get some of the nonsensical regulations — for instance the absurd expansion of the Clean Water Act, of the Waters of the United States — reversed. I think that regulation’s gotta be backed up. I think Dodd-Frank (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) is already going down. … I think that’s going to make businesses able to do business, and hire more people.

“(It made me feel) better than when I watched it in 1960. John Kennedy finished and had a nice inauguration, and then sent my husband and most of his classmates off to Vietnam.”


Mary Ann Smithee, 61, owns Antique Avenue, an antique shop in downtown Walsenburg.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Mary Ann Smithee, 61

“I’m a businesswoman. And I see Mr. Trump as being very experienced and knowledgeable and wise and successful. He’s proven himself. He can run a business. I think where our nation is at this point, because of all that huge, huge debt that’s come about ... common sense tells me that is not the right way to run a country, to run a business. When I see Mr. Trump, I see a whole different thing. … He worked hard, he built his businesses, he paid his debts. … I think that’s going to be really good for the economic part of our nation.

“I care about our environment. ... I would just like to see people who are the backbone of America be able to have jobs and work in fields that aren’t so regulated.”


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Sam Haun, 89, is a WWII veteran and the Resident Council President at Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Sam Haun, 89

“I think I feel like most people. I’m not a real big Trump man. I did vote for him. I just hope he can do a lot of the things he talked about. I think we have a new opportunity and a new chance to start over, redo some things, get rid of some things, improve things like ... our education, our border system, so many things like that. I think it’s good that we have that chance. And I believe that some of it will be done anyway.

“I felt some pride in how (the inauguration) was handled and how power is passed from one person to another. I’m very sorry that some (politicians) didn’t want to attend. I’m very happy that it went over without any big problems from the demonstrators.”


Monica Bellas, 18, is a single mother of a four-month-old child.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Monica Bellas, 18

“I really don’t know. ... Everything I see is on Facebook, because I don’t watch TV or anything. (On my Facebook) nobody’s happy about Trump becoming president. We’re a really poor town anyway, so it’s not going to affect us much because, you know, we’ve already had the worst thrown at us.

“I want to go to college, and now with Trump becoming president and everything else that’s gonna be harder on me as a single mom. I have just got to hope for the best, like I have been.”


Grace McGuire, 47, is a nurse at Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

Grace McGuire, 47

“I love it! I love being here (in America). I’m glad they gonna get back on track and I wish I could have been there. We needed someone with business (experience) and class and someone willing to go out there on the line and do it. And he’s not afraid to do it.”


Stay tuned for more on the town of Walsenburg, Colorado and Huerfano County during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. 

Brooke Warren is the Associate Designer and photographer at High Country News. Follow her on Instagram @brooklynwarren.

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