Former Dillon Mayor Testifies Before Senate Agriculture Committee on Rural Development

Bennet Recommended Colorado Native for 'Energy and Economic Growth in Rural America' Hearing

On the recommendation of Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Dr. Flo Raitano of Dillon, Colorado, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee today on the importance of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Programs and the role they play in improving the quality of life in rural communities.

Raitano, who served two terms as Dillon’s mayor, owned a small business practicing veterinary medicine and now runs an organization supporting local communities’ rural development efforts. Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recommended her as a witness for the “Energy and Economic Growth in Rural America” hearing, given her experience as a small business owner and rural mayor.

“As a third-generation Coloradan and former small town mayor, Dr. Raitano understands what it’s like to live and work in a small, rural community,” Bennet said. “She’s seen firsthand how USDA programs can help those communities continue to thrive and remain a vibrant part of our state’s economy. Her expertise and insight is exactly what Washington needs to make programs more efficient so that they work for Colorado and rural America. I’m grateful that she took the time to travel today and hope to continue to bring the voices of rural Colorado to Washington.”

Raitano’s testimony focused on the importance of ensuring that Rural Development (RD) Programs are accessible and efficient. She also discussed how important it is to administer and prioritize USDA Rural Development projects with an eye toward regional needs.

“RD programs are a key component of economic development in rural America,” Raitano said in her testimony. “Without the basic infrastructure they provide—clean drinking water; sanitary sewers; high-speed, reliable broadband internet; public safety facilities and equipment; housing and access to local healthcare for workers; and more—industries will relocate or close, factories and small businesses will decline and eventually disappear.

“The entrepreneurs and small business owners who are the engines of our economy won’t open new shops or restaurants on Main Street and won’t be able to set up websites to market their products to the world.”

Raitano shared an example of how Dillon accessed USDA RD Programs to develop affordable housing for local tourism industry workers and their families.

“Twenty-four years later, those homes are still serving a genuine need in our community,” she said. “Without those funds, it would have been difficult to attract and retain the workers necessary to power one of the region’s largest economic engines.”

Raitano is a third-generation native Coloradoan, born in Pueblo and raised in Denver. A veterinarian with a veterinary medicine degree from Colorado State University, she managed and owned a small animal clinic in Dillon, Colorado for eight years. She was twice elected mayor of Dillon and was the first executive director of the Colorado Rural Development Council. She has participated with a large number of other civic and grassroots-based organizations across Colorado and the United States that deal with rural issues and policies aimed at protecting and enhancing rural communities and grassroots empowerment.