Padgett, a Democrat, represents District 1, which encompasses much of the north end of the county including Log Hill, Colona and Pleasant Valley. She has held the seat since 2008. Come November, she will be facing off against third-generation rancher and Log Hill resident Jack Flowers, who announced his candidacy as a Republican candidate for the BOCC last month.
Padgett has lived in Ouray County since 1999.
Padgett kicked off her 2012 campaign at a sudsy gathering at the Colorado Boy brewery in Ridgway on Saturday, Feb. 25, where she first thanked her husband Jeff for “letting me run again.”
“You hear everyone say you really depend on your spouse for a lot of things, but Jeff has gone above and beyond what a spouse typically would do,” she said.
Touching on her accomplishments and priorities over the past four years, Padgett started with water issues, and in particular, the Good Samaritan legislation that she is traveling to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. this week to support. (Padgett is on the Colorado Counties Public Lands Committee, which will cover her hotel, travel, and registration fees for the trip.)
The Ouray County Commissioners have joined with the other counties around the region to endorse Good Samaritan mining legislation, which would modify discharge permits for abandoned mine cleanup, improve water quality, and increase job opportunities in mining areas.
“That would be huge for our watershed, to allow bonafide groups that have no connection to the historic mining to clean up or improve water quality,” Padgett said, referring to the Animas River Stakeholders in Silverton as a prime example of such a group.
Padgett has long described the Clean Water Act as a regulatory hurdle that inhibits the rebirth of small-scale responsible mining in the San Juans. “If we can actually have a new mine come in under the Clean Water Act and do small scale or medium scale mining, that could be a good thing,” she stressed.
Padgett also discussed her involvement with the REAL Colorado Initiative, a statewide initiative spawned in reaction to Gov. Hickenlooper’s proposal to take much of the administration for social services out of the hands of counties and shift it to state agencies. REAL is an effort by many Colorado county commissioners and social/human services directors to make sure government is “Responsive, Efficient, Accountable, and Locally driven” because “the most effective governance results from local, state and federal officials working in true partnership toward the development and implementation of programs and services.”
Padgett and Albritton will be among the representatives from Colorado counties traveling to Washington, DC to take the same message to Colorado’s seven Congressional District Representatives and two Colorado Senators on March 7.
“We need to have a partnership with the federal and state government,” Padgett said. “We need to continue to show up in both D.C. and Denver and make sure that the unfunded mandates don’t come. When Ouray County goes to Denver and testifies on a bill, we may not always get our way, but people are paying more and more attention to Ouray County and the San Juans.”
Padgett touted her track record at the county over the past three-plus years as a budget hawk, enumerating the ways she has helped save the county money. On her watch, Padgett said, the county has saved $22,000 a year in fuel and heating costs for the assessor’s office and the courthouse; trimmed $14,000 from its phone and Internet bill; dropped $40,500 from its annual cost for housing inmates in the Montrose County Detention Center, while adding inmate health insurance to protect Ouray County taxpayers from liability; scaled back its bill for the Homemaker Program from $60,000 to $8,000 annually while looking for better local solutions to meet the needs of the elderly and disabled population and help them be able to continue living in Ouray County; and kick-started an initiative for the Board of County Commissioners to “go paperless,” thereby saving the county “reams and reams of paper” and staff time in collating BOCC packets for each meeting.
“I promise to make informed and intelligent decisions. I also promise to increase the transparency and accountability of our county government,” Padgett said.
Padgett’s candidacy for a second term as county commissioner further defines the field for the upcoming BOCC election in Ouray County. Local pols predict the race could be fierce. Commissioner Heidi Albritton is term-limited and will not seek another term for her District 3 seat. Former commissioner Don Batchelder of Ridgway, who himself was term-limited out of office several years ago but is now eligible to run again, made his run for the vacant District 3 position official just prior to the Republican caucus on Feb. 7. No other candidates have officially come forward yet to contest Batchelder, although Ridgway mayor Pat Willits has unofficially indicated he may consider a BOCC run as an independent. Willits is not seeking reelection as Ridgway mayor in municipal elections coming up this spring.
District lines in Ouray County were redrawn in 2011 in response to the 2010 census, eliminating the old dividing line between Districts 2 and 3 down the center of Ouray along Highway 550. New district boundaries take a “Neapolitan ice cream” approach, more or less slicing the county into three north-south layers. The northern district (District 1) includes Log Hill, Colona and Pleasant Valley. District 2, the southern layer, encompasses all of the city of Ouray. District 3 includes Ridgway, Cow Creek and Miller Mesa, ensuring that in the future, each geographic area of the county will be represented on the board.