Candidacy: San Miguel County District 3 Commissioner, Republican
Education: B.S. in Business Administration, Oklahoma Christian College, 1978
Occupation: Co-owner of CoWest Insurance of Telluride for the past 14 years
Family: Wife, Cherrie, and two sons
Prior Government Experience: Served on the Citizens Advisory Budget Committee-City of Aurora (1987)
After taking a closer look at the current state of the economy in San Miguel County, Kevin Kell decided to run for San Miguel County Commissioner because he didn’t see a “rosy picture” heading into the future.
“I have over 30 years of business experience,” he said, “and I just think it’s time we had a commissioner with business experience on the board. I know what it takes and I can ask the right kind of questions when dealing with the state of the economy.”
For Kell, in these tough economic times, doing things as they’ve been done in the past doesn’t cut it and he believes the voters in the county deserve someone who can create economic opportunities for all areas of the county while being a good steward of taxpayer’s dollars.
“I am a big believer in economic development,” Kell said. “I will take a very proactive approach to create a culture of economic development that welcomes new businesses and jobs into the county and they don’t have to be tourist related.”
Before the economic downturn, Kell said the county used to have a very robust construction and real estate economy as a backstop but as those recover, which “could take several more years,” the county only has a tourism economy to rely on.
“Somebody has to put a focus on economic development,” he said.
“We focus on the social environment, our schools, churches, community organizations and the environment but the economic development has been totally ignored.”
Kell suggested that a good start to building a culture of economic development in San Miguel County would be to launch an economic development council that not only seeks out specific types of businesses that would meld well with the county but invite businesses as well.
“We should be having business incubator lunches to find out what areas where we could have strong economic development,” he said. “We have some brilliant business people here and they could help young people figure out how to get their business going. We need a general culture of economic development.”
And, Kell said, it isn’t just needed in the east end of the county. The west end needs it too.
“That is the main reason I am running. I don’t think it has been done, especially for the people in the west end,” Kell said. “I would like to see us focus on helping them out there. They have only one promising industry in the short term and that is the energy industry. It seems the commissioners are opposed to energy expansion and that has a possibility of creating more jobs out there.”
When it comes to the county’s fiscal health and budget process, Kell said he has some concerns in that area as well. The county currently has a policy that it must keep at least 50 percent of a year’s operating costs in reserve. But as declining revenues persist, the county has had to dip into its reserves over the past few years and at some point, the county could face a situation where those reserves will drop below 50 percent.
“We need to re-look at the whole budget process,” Kell said. “If revenues keep dropping, I don’t know at what point you say that you can’t keep eating up reserves before tough decisions need to be made. I am not saying that we should take things to the chopping block but we must start spending within our means. In tough times you just have to make those hard decisions. There may be things the county is spending money on that they shouldn’t be.”
Finally, Kell said he values having citizens being elected and becoming public servants through the election process but he also believes they shouldn’t make careers out of it. Two terms, or eight years, in office is enough for a county commissioner, he says, and he would support term limits if he is elected.
“I will not run for more than two terms,” Kell said. “If I am elected, I will try serve for no more than eight years and then I am out. I just think that nobody should be in office for 16 years or 12 years living on the taxpayer’s dime.”
If elected to serve, Kell said he would take the opportunity to make relationships with people and serve them the best that he can.
“I work with people well and I appreciate other people’s opinions,” he said. “I will never put them down because of their opinion. I don’t get into antagonistic relationships with people and I think being able to work with people and being able to come up with reasonable solutions are some of my strengths.”