In Final Debate, Challengers Ask for a Nonpartisan Commissioner Race
by Kati O'Hare
Oct 11, 2012 | 1257 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Montrose County Commissioner, House District 58 Candidates Go Toe-to-Toe for the Last Time Before Elections

MONTROSE – Tuesday was the last time that Montrose County citizens would hear from their county commissioner candidates in a public forum setting before the elections.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, county voters will have to choose between District 3 incumbent David White vs.  Kjersten Davis, and District 1 incumbent Ron Henderson vs. Juli Messenger.

Although traditionally dubbed a partisan election — White and Henderson are Republican candidates, while Messenger and Davis are registered Democrats — the challengers asked voters at the forum to make it a nonpartisan race.

Both Messenger and Davis were unaffiliated voters until recently.

"I would argue at the county level that [being a Democrat] is an irrelevant point," Davis said. "Let's look at what we can do, not [as politicians] but what we can do as individuals to make the county the best it can be."

Questions for the candidates were supplied by The League of Women Voters, which hosted the forum, as well as from the audience. The queries focused on economic development, and also commissioners' decisions regarding budget cuts and renewable resources.

All four of the candidates could agree on a few points, but on only one issue: the county's current employee-hiring policy, which seeks in-house candidates before looking outside, is a good idea. Seeking an in-house candidate to fill a position is the best use of taxpayer dollars, as the county has already invested in that employee, White said.

Davis and Messenger said they would not support the elimination of necessary services at Montrose County Health and Human Services as a solution to its diminishing budget, preferring to search for more efficient ways to run those programs.

Davis stressed the importance of local control and less government, as well as efficiency and collaboration, in several answers. "We all know, with government comes red tape and inefficiencies," she said, adding that a way to handle the aggressive federal and state cuts to health and human services was to look at sufficiency programs, such as REAL (an acronym for Responsive, Efficiency, Accountable and Local) Colorado.  The program has been endorsed by Ouray and Arapahoe counties.

Recently, HHS’  wellness program, which provided mammograms to older, underserved women, was cut.

White said that while federal and state cuts have forced the county to focus on providing mandatory programs, the county has also worked to acquire grants from groups like Empowering Dads, in order  to enable non-mandated programs to continue.

"We are being as efficient and prudent as possible," he said.

All the candidates said they would support exploitation of the county's natural resources (mining, in particular). White and Henderson said such support could help the county out of its economic slump.

"We need to pursue natural resources, and we need to use them correctly. That will provide the great ,high-paying jobs," Henderson said.

White said government needs to get out of the way and stop interfering with the private sector, and that it will be industry that will drive Montrose County forward.

Although Messenger and Davis agreed that responsible mining is an option, they also said they would look at other avenues for economic development.

"I think job retention has been overlooked as a key focus point," Messenger said.

She said she would develop a plan to work with state and federal agencies, so the county has input in decisions regarding state and federal lands. Messenger also said she would like to explore personal property tax incentives, as has done in Greeley.

Legislation allows counties and cities to negotiate a rebate of up to 50 percent of the jurisdiction's levy on new taxable personal property for up to ten years, according to the city of Greeley's website.

Davis said she would like to shift the county's current focus on large industry — which she said isn't a natural fit, given its disconnection to railways and interstates — to what the county can do to attract more citizens, especially retirees and telecommuters.

After about 90 minutes, the questions came to a halt, but the evening wasn't over.

House District 58 Rep. Don Coram, a Republican, faced off against Democrat Tammy Theis after commissioners and more than half the audience had left.

While Coram focused on what he had done in office to make sure he represented the rural communities of his district, and Theis emphasized her 35 years of experience with Delta-Montrose Electric Association.

Theis emphasized "playing by the book" and "following the Constitution" in most of her responses, saying she believes in working with already-established agencies, such as the EPA, to make sure rules and regulations are legitimate and followed.

Coram disagreed, saying more government is not the answer. He said he is working on getting a regulations oversight committee approved that would evaluate those mandates that are holding back development and industry, to ensure they are serving an environmental, health or safety purpose, and do not exist simply “for the sake of a bureaucrat filling his day."

Twitter: @katiohare

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October 16, 2012
While I will be voting for both Messenger and Davis, I fear that the Montrose Good-Old_Boy mafia has many years to go before they will be ousted...... too many ignorant, greedy voters....... did I mention that Montrose County is a Republican bastion of failed policies and corrupt practices? In the last ten years - the airport debacle..... the recall against Bill Patterson...... the hospital mess..... the in-fighting among their own party leaders..... the MEDC failures...... corporate welfare....... misappropriation of tax and complete veil over all county business...... oh boy! I can't wait for the next scandal!