A small but engaged group of people met Saturday night to meet local candidates running in the November election. Up for grabs are two county commissioner seats and the District 8 state Senate seat. About 20 people congregated in the North Routt Fire Station No. 2 to share a potluck with the candidates and ask questions on various issues.
Democrat Jay Fetcher is running against incumbent Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, for the District 8 state Senate seat. Fetcher, a Clark rancher, discussed his background and the values he wants to protect if elected. A member of the Steamboat Springs School Board and founder of the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, he wants to protect Western water rights and community control of schools, he said.
"I'm running for my children, my daughters, because I'm worried about the future with the present administration. We're passing costs onto our children, and they're the ones who'll have to pay," Fetcher said.
Defending incumbent Taylor also spoke at the forum. He has served eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives and four years in the Colorado Senate. He says his experiences from farming in Iowa to working at Boeing Aerospace to owning a real estate company allow him to understand agriculture, corporations and small businesses. A key accomplishment in his previous service, he said, is improving telecommunication access in Northwest Colorado. Other issues such as water, tourism and energy also are important to him, he said.
On the county level, Republican Nancy Stahoviak is defending her District 1 county commissioner seat. During her term, she said, the county commissioners and City Council had significant success with affordable housing and early child-care and education programs.
"In the last four years, we've made great strides in working with the City Council," Stahoviak said.
She also discussed progress made with Yampa Valley Regional Airport. A group was created to study the airport's costs and benefits, and it concluded that the airport was a benefit, she said.
"Through the group's work, we're now all on the same page," she said.
Although the location and size of a new courthouse remain a sticking point, some issues you have to agree to disagree on, she said.
"We have to recognize that the city and county serve different constituents. The City Council wants what's best for the city while we want what's best for the county. There's always going to be some issues that we're not going to agree on," she said.
Challenging Stahoviak is Libertarian Mike Kien. In his platform, he emphasized the importance of limited government and individual liberty. For Kien, those values manifest themselves in lower taxes, protection of property rights and the privatization of "those portions of the government that compete with private enterprises," he said.
"I believe you have the right to live your life as you want without the government interfering, as long as you respect the rights of others to do the same," he said.
Republican Bea Westwater, another contender for the District 1 seat, was not able to speak at the forum.
For the District 2 county commissioner seat, incumbent and Democrat Doug Monger spoke, as did challengers Jeff Fry and Mark Marchus, both Republicans.
Monger discussed several of his successes during the past four years, including the addition of a terminal at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, development of a multipurpose fairground and the preservation of rural roadways. If given an additional term, he wants to promote and plan economic growth.
"It's important for the county not to stymie growth but to allow growth to occur in the best way and to be proactive in its direction," he said.
Monger acknowledged, however, that a tight budget poses difficulties for starting new programs.
"We're struggling with current budget deficits. We won't be expanding government services at any rate," he said.
Challenger Jeff Fry gave a more point-by-point account of his positions than other candidates. Concerning proposed Forest Service fees for wintertime users, he is "100 percent against it," he said. He also alluded to a potential swap of Emerald Mountain land from the Bureau of Land Management. He opposes it in its current form because he wants to find different ways to fund it, he said. Additionally, he suggested using "chip-and-seal" methods to maintain county roads because he thinks it's cheaper than the current method. But Fry also recognized the economic difficulties the county faces.
"The budget looks tough here for a while," he said.
Republican Mark Marchus, former chief building official, was the last challenger to speak at the forum. He emphasized the importance of common sense in government leaders.
"What I bring is 30 to 32 years working within government. I've seen good working governments and governments that could use honing. In many government positions, common sense has gone out the window, but I bring a good basis for using it," he said.
Marchus also said his previous experience in government has given him the tools to resolve difficult issues. He plans to apply those skills to issues such as the courthouse.
"In the building department, my door has always been open. People bring their problems, and we work out a solution. I want to do the same as a county commissioner."
Another forum will be held Wednesday at the Fairview Inn in Steamboat Springs.
--To reach Kristin Bjornsen, call 879-1502.