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Want to be the mayor? Stuff the ballot box

Breen folks raise money for community center

Loretta Lee, left, and her daughter-in-law, Debbie Lee, listen as John Lee gives his acceptance speech after being elected mayor of Breen on Saturday evening at the Breen Community Building. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Loretta Lee, left, and her daughter-in-law, Debbie Lee, listen as John Lee gives his acceptance speech after being elected mayor of Breen on Saturday evening at the Breen Community Building.

BREEN – When John Lee accepted his gold crown as “mayor” of Breen on Saturday night, he told a crowd of about 60 residents that, “Nothing is too good for Breen, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Lee was “elected” after helping stuff ballot boxes with money (the box with the most money won) as part of the biennial Breen Chili Supper and Auction, which raises money to help support the Breen Community Building, often called the Breen Grange.

Also “elected” Saturday were Mike Crawford as sheriff and George Morley Jr. as dog catcher.

In addition to stuffing the ballot box, there was a silent auction and a dessert auction with local auctioneer Bob Cooper.

Mae Morley, secretary-treasurer of the Breen Community Building committee and event organizer, said the $2,100 raised will help pay for the building’s utilities and upkeep for almost a year.

The supper and auction also was created to “get more interest and have a fun event” for the Breen community, Morley said.

“It’s just silly,” she said.

In his victory speech, with gold crown perched atop his white cowboy hat, Lee said he wanted to “thank my wife for getting me here – she’s the one who drove.”

Speaking more seriously, Lee told the crowd that “What we need is more community. This (event) is a great show of that.”

In a post-election interview, Lee said he has a longtime connection to the community building.

His grandparents first met when his grandfather saw a woman riding a horse by Lightner Creek, they got together for the first time at a dance at the grange building.

Of course, the couple got married. They even became part of the dance group that “danced their way across Colorado” and won awards. A photo of the dance team, including Lee’s grandparents, is in a display cabinet in the building, along with a reunion photo from years later.

The building now also accommodates various events for organizations such as the Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Department and the Mountain Shadows 4-H Club, which helped with the chili supper, and other groups.

Morley said Breen has changed. The community building is across the street from what used to be Breen Mercantile, where she went to buy things when she was a child. Very little has been able to thrive in the Mercantile building in recent years, and it is for sale again.

“The community paid for this building,” Morley said.

The turnout wasn’t as big as organizers hoped it would be, because of several factors.

Lee said the cold temperature is one reason. Some would have to make sure their livestock are taken care of in the low temperatures, which dipped below 10 degrees in some areas early Sunday morning.

Still, even the results of the dessert auction show locals’ commitment to the community and the building that represents it.

“If someone is going to spend $130 on a pie, it’s not for the pie,” Lee said.

rgalin@durangoherald.com