Juli Messenger Wants to Focus on Economic Development
by Kati O'Hare
Jul 26, 2012 | 1603 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juli Messenger, unaffiliated Montrose County commissioner candidate
. (Courtesy photo)
Juli Messenger, unaffiliated Montrose County commissioner candidate
. (Courtesy photo)

MONTROSE – Policies and procedures regarding how to approach economic development within Montrose County were recently approved, but Juli Messenger wants more.

Messenger, who successfully petitioned to be on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate for Montrose County commissioner in November's election, wants to see a plan.

"I petitioned onto the ballot because I'm not convinced that our party system is serving us well," said Messenger, who has been an unaffiliated voter for several years.

"Montrose County's economy concerns me," she said in an interview with The Watch. "It's one of the worst economies in the state. Unemployment, housing, construction – it all tells us of our struggling state, and I think a plan needs to be developed to address this."

Messenger is currently the coordinator for Drug-Free Montrose County and handles marketing and special events for the Partners of Delta, Montrose and Ouray.

Before that, she spent more than six years as a senior deputy city clerk, and then 11 years as executive director of the Montrose Area Merchants Association. In 2010, MAMA was absorbed into the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism, and Messenger's position was eliminated.

"I have a record of integrity and hard work, and a passion for Montrose County," she said.

Messenger said that her years spent working with area businesses give her an advantage over her opponents.

"I've worked with businesses a long time, and understand their struggles, and what it takes to make a nonprofit work,” she said, emphasizing she understands challenges facing those in both the public and private sector.

Messenger said that during her 11 years at MAMA, no more than 30 percent of her budget went toward administration costs.

"Seventy percent went where it was needed and that's the same prudent action that I'll bring to the [Board of] County Commissioners," she said.

Messenger said she believes there are many opportunities the county could pursue to expand its job market. She would like to meet with primary employers — with representatives from both large and unique businesses — to identify potential new avenues.

"We seem to be using old economic development tools that worked in the prior climate, but those tools aren't working any longer," she said. "We need to look for new ways and new things to pursue. I'm talking about developing new things, things that we haven't tried before."

Economic development is the number one priority in the county's Strategic Plan.

"I'd like to see more of a plan in that plan," she said. "I don't really see any meat and potatoes to that, number one, and I'm hoping we can actually develop steps” on a path to economic development.

Messenger voiced concern as well with the county budget, saying she disagrees with the county's decision to dip into its reserves to help with its $4 million deficit – especially unwise, she said, upon factoring in the reality of decreasing property values, resulting in less income for the county in 2014.

According to the county, that $4 million figure is for capital improvement projects, including the new Justice Center Annex, improvements at Montrose Regional Airport, and for costs associated with filing for water rights out of the San Miguel River in the West End.

Messenger suggested the county could have had more discussions with neighboring counties, before it filed for those water rights, voicing the concern that they were "too aggressive on the parameters of the filing," in adding potential population growth numbers to support that filing were deceptive.

"I think water rights are critical, and I support the components of that filing, but I think we needed to be more thoughtful of our neighboring communities and have conversations about that," Messenger said.

She would also like to see more collaboration between county commissioners and other entities – for example, the relationship between Montrose Memorial Hospital and the county is strained, she said. And while she plans to talk with all parties involved in last year’s rupture between MMH and the county commissioners, she said she believes the problem could have been avoided, with better communication.

Messenger said she will continue to campaign for economic development, for responsible uses of taxpayer dollars and for collaboration.

Messenger is running against Republican incumbent Ron Henderson.

Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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