Citizens, it’s election season. The major parties have held their primaries and selected their candidates. As Greens, we had our state convention in Carbondale this past March. I was unanimously nominated there as the San Miguel Greens chapter’s sole county commissioner candidate.
While some counties have term limits, the majority of San Miguel voters have chosen to make their term decisions in the ballot box. And, indeed, we have a tradition of long-serving county elected officials in our county – Sheriff Bill Masters, Clerk Gay Cappis, Assessor Peggy Kantor.
I’m running for a fifth term as San Miguel’s District 3 commissioner – that is, I live in District 3 (which stretches from Egnar and Slick Rock to Sawpit and San Bernardo), but I get voted on by all the citizens of the county. And my job is to try to represent them all. Straddling two watersheds, it’s like serving as minister/referee at the marriage of the New West and the Old West, as Dr. Patricia Limerick of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado Boulder has characterized it.
As is most appropriate in a democracy, I have two citizen opponents – both of whom have worked in the county for many years as small business owners. I look forward to a healthy and respectful debate with them about county government, where it’s headed, how it’s being run.
I am hoping to convince the electorate that I have served the county well in my past four terms. In an era of political partisanship in extremis, I’m proud of what the county has done, weathering the most significant economic downturn in our lifetimes.
I’d like to promise “more goodtimes” this time around, but truth is, it’s more a hope than a promise.
The county did manage to tighten our budget belts by dipping into reserves that we had built up just for this kind of rainy day (thank you, Gordon Glockson). We didn’t fire a single county worker, and in fact partnered with the Town of Telluride to save one of their employees with a shared job.
But we did put a hiring freeze in place, a hold on merit pay and cost-of-living increases, and have cut our spending significantly, without damaging basic county services or our commitment to Eco-Action Partners. We even managed a few small grants to struggling local nonprofits.
Our lobbying in Denver and D.C. paid off over the last four years in the form of millions of dollars in federal Payments-In-Lieu of-Taxes for the 60+ percent of federal lands within our boundaries that’s not subject to property tax. PILT funding has been successfully championed the last few years by members of our Congressional delegation who’ve listened to us on this issue – the Salazar brothers, Bennett, and Udall, in particular.
The county has won innovation awards for our Gold Run housing project working with Telluride. We also partnered with Telluride and the Colorado Department of Transportation on a critical infrastructure improvement at Society Turn, and won CDOT’s support for a Sawpit highway turnout, rockfall nets on Norwood Hill, and a bridge replacement at Leopard Creek.
We lobbied successfully to keep the post offices open at Ophir and Egnar. We just acquired the Placerville Schoolhouse and plan to restore it to its historical significance, while making it available to Placer Valley folks as a community meeting space.
We’ve started a Farmer’s Market in Norwood and turned the Pig Palace at the Basin Fairgrounds into an ice skating rink in the winter.
Those are just a handful of the accomplishments of county government in the last few years. I use the first person plural because in government, accomplishments are the product of group planning and group decision-making, unlike in the business world, where owners make most of the decisions. A commissioner needs to be skilled at persuading colleagues and staff to have any project move forward or be funded.
In the run-up to the fall balloting, I hope you’ll come to our candidate debates and find out why I’m proud to stand before you as a fellow citizen and ask for your vote for re-election this November.