Facing off for 56

Fetcher, White talk about why they should be legislators

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— Jay Fetcher and Al White both say they had plenty to keep them busy before they made the decision to run for the state Legislature.

White, a Republican, is a Winter Park businessman involved in the resort industry. Fetcher, a Democrat, is a Routt County rancher. The two men are seeking to become the next state representative from District 56, which includes Steamboat Springs in its five county area. They spoke before a breakfast meeting of the Steamboat Springs board of Realtors on Oct. 3.

"I remember the day in 1976 when I leased an old filling station and turned it into a 900-square-foot ski shop," in Winter Park, White said. "It wasn't a very good year to go into the business people in Steamboat will recall that was the year you were shoveling snow onto the slopes."

White managed a profit that first year, at least until he was advised by his accountant he'd have to pay taxes on his inventory. But he and his wife, Jean, persevered and eventually owned three ski shops and a 25-room lodge in Winter Park.

His experience in business helped to form the approach he would take to the Legislature, White said.

"I will foster a system that will keep government out of your daily lives, your business lives and out of your wallet," White told an audience of more than 100 Realtors.

Fetcher said he's running for the Legislature because he wants to be a voice for agriculture.

"I don't need a job," Fetcher told the Realtors. "I've got 300 cows at home. I'm running because it matters."

Fetcher, a former president of the Steamboat Springs School Board, said he feels strongly that education, and keeping decision-making power at the local level are important. He's just as committed to shoring up what he says is the dwindling representation for agriculture at the state capitol.

"The ag voice is disappearing in Denver," Fetcher said. "I want to make certain there's a voice in the Legislature of someone who is actually working in agriculture." He is a founding member of the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust.

White says he is dedicated to supporting the growth of farming and ranching while maintaining private property and water rights.

He said he has worked hard to foster affordable housing in his community and believes different levels of government will have to work together to create new opportunities in housing. White said he believes the state Legislature can play a role in assisting communities on the western slope provide those opportunities.

White said as a state representative, he would relish the opportunity to help constituents disentangle themselves from state regulatory agencies.

Fetcher says that if he's elected to the state Legislature, he'll push incentives intended to motivate both the public and private sectors to work together on meeting housing needs.

White and Fetcher are in agreement on Amendment 24, a question put to voters statewide this fall that would require a local vote on future development outside established subdivisions and growth areas.

Fetcher said he's opposed because it doesn't take into account the needs of local communities.

"Willow Creek Village (in north Routt County) wouldn't have been allowed (under Amendment 24)," Fetcher said. "And it's a real asset to the Clark community."

Fetcher said he believes in the effectiveness of local initiatives, like the Routt County Open Lands Plan, which he helped create, to counteract growth.

Like Fetcher, White doesn't want to see local governments bound by a constitutional amendment.

"Amendment 24 has the potential to do great damage to our state," White said.

White said his preferred alternative is to pass a statewide bill that would be loosely worded to give teeth to local initiatives. In that way, White explained, local officials could tell developers whose projects didn't fit a local growth plan, that they are bound by state law to adhere to that plan.

Asked what differentiates him from his opponent, Fetcher opted to respond instead to a different question just asked of state senate candidates. Fetcher said he chose to become a Democrat because of the strong influence of his mother and his strong "pro choice" stance on abortion rights.

White said he can be differentiated from his opponent by his long history as a businessman with a connection to tourism. He said as a board secretary for the Grand County Water and Sanitation District he acquired knowledge of Colorado River headwater water rights that are critical to the 56th district.

He reminded his audience that he has received the endorsement of the Colorado Association of Realtors and concluded: "I am the more well-rounded candidate."

Fetcher concluded by saying his long involvement with public education, his family's long standing involvement in the ski industry, his track record in working for agriculture and open space, are to his advantage.

"My knowledge of what's important to Northwest Colorado and the 56th district make me the best candidate," Fetcher said.

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