With early voting beginning this week, Republicans across the county will have the chance to pick between two candidates -- Bea Westwater and incumbent Nancy Stahoviak -- for the District 1 county commissioner seat.
The winner of the primary will face Libertarian Mike Kien in the November election.
Stahoviak, who has served as county commissioner for the district for the past 12 years, is looking for another term, with hopes of continuing to tackle the "exciting" issues that also are the "hardest to figure out how to solve."
"I've often said in the last few years that in my first probably eight years in office, we've solved all the easier issues, and now we have all the hard ones left," Stahoviak said. Those include affordable housing and early childhood care and education, as well as building a new justice center and running the county under a tight budget.
"I'd like to be involved in that," Stahoviak said.
Stahoviak said she feels she has the "background, the experience, the dedication and the knowledge of Routt County issues that no other candidate has.
"I have been involved in all of these issues for a lot longer than the other candidates," Stahoviak said. "What you see with me is what you get, and what you have seen with me is what you get. The citizens of Routt County know my track record."
Westwater, who has lived full-time in Routt County for five years, is Stahoviak's challenger. Westwater said her past experience, which includes consulting for large developers and grassroots citizens groups, teaching skiing and serving as a village trustee in New York, and her present experience, including public service in various South Routt groups, prepares her to serve as commissioner.
"I think I bring energy. I think I bring a new vision," Westwater said.
Westwater has owned property in Routt County for the past 15 years. She works at the Steamboat Bed and Breakfast and serves as president of the Stagecoach Property Owners Association, as secretary of the South Routt Economic Development Council and as a committee chairwoman for the South Routt Community Economic Assessment.
Previously, she took the Leadership Steamboat class and served as a chamber ambassador.
Before living in this area, she worked as a consultant for Wilmorite, one of the largest regional mall developers in the country, for the Waste Management Northeast Region and for Wal-Mart.
She also consulted for concerned citizens groups in the Northeast.
She was general manager of a motel and restaurant with a bar and nightclub, assistant director of a ski area in upstate New York, and was a ski instructor for 30 years.
Westwater also served as a trustee for Stamford, N.Y., where she dealt with a major flood and worked on economic development plans for depressed areas in the Northeast.
"I figure I have a few qualifications," Westwater said.
Her decision to run for county commissioner came when she started to feel like some things were "falling through the cracks." One of her top goals, she said, is to help form and promote a vision for the entire county.
"I think we promote our skiing, and we promote our events," Westwater said. "But I don't see us promoting our day trips, our hunting, our fishing."
Another priority is to attract appropriate development to the area, she said, to prevent the county's "most precious resource" -- its youths -- from leaving. Some of Westwater's specific ideas include encouraging Regis College to set up a four-year institution in the county and encouraging an airline company from Centennial to test planes out of Yampa Valley Regional Airport. One important step would be hiring an economic development director for the county, she said.
The county has "mishandled" the building of the new justice center from the start, Westwater said, and spent too much money on it early on in the process. Westwater said she would like to trim down the budget in any way possible and thinks choosing to move the justice center to a west-of-downtown Steamboat Springs site makes sense.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership, which proposes swapping small Bureau of Land Management parcels across the county, needs more study, as it is a decision that will affect generations to come, Westwater said.
Westwater said a gravel pit is "desperately needed" in South Routt.
"It's not a political question, as far as I'm concerned, it's just a practical one," she said.
Westwater worked as a consultant for Lafarge on a South Valley gravel pit, but said she no longer is working for the company and so has no conflict of interest on the topic.
Overall, Westwater said she would bring a new perspective to the position.
"To be very honest, I would not want to be a commissioner for 12 years," Westwater said. "I think Nancy has done some good things, there's no question in my mind about that, but I think it's time for a change."
Stahoviak has lived in Oak Creek for the past 28 years. She began her career in public service 25 years ago, when her son was 4 years old.
She served on the Oak Creek Town Board as a town trustee and then as mayor, and was town treasurer for five years. She has been a county commissioner for 12 years.
Stahoviak has served on various nonprofit boards, such as the founding board for Routt County United Way, Advocates Against Battering and Abuse, the Steamboat Mental Health advisory board and the founding board for Yampa Valley Partners.
She serves as a trustee to the Yampa Valley Medical Center Board, on the Routt County Education Foundation and on the South Routt Early Learning Center Board. She is the vice president of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the co-chairwoman for First Impressions of Routt County. She serves on the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Committee, the South Routt Economic Development Council and the South Routt Community Center Board.
Stahoviak also serves on the State Energy and Mineral Impact Advisory Committee and the State Workforce Development Council, which are both government-appointed positions.
If re-elected for a fourth term, Stahoviak said her priorities would be building the new justice center at the most reasonable cost possible; pursuing solutions to the need for affordable housing through the newly created Yampa Valley Housing Authority; and broadening strategies for providing good early childhood care and education through First Impressions of Routt County.
Another top goal is to increase salaries for county employees to a market value that keeps county jobs competitive and so helps the county retain its employees, Stahoviak said.
Stahoviak has stood by the county's decision to build the new justice center west of downtown Steamboat Springs, despite concerns from individuals and the Steamboat Springs City Council.
The west site will be less expensive and provide space for a Detox and Crisis Stabilization unit. Stahoviak also said she thinks the site is the one a majority of county residents want.
Stahoviak supports a gravel resource south of Steamboat Springs as close to the city as possible, so trucks transporting gravel do not have to travel far to construction sites.
The process used to develop the Emerald Mountain Partnership continues to concern Stahoviak, who said it does not appear that the Bureau of Land Management followed its own guidelines for land trades. Stahoviak said she feels it's wrong that potential purchasers have to pay for studies about the land trade and that some large areas of public land will be lost.
She said she's pleased that an airport commission has been created and that she feels it's appropriate to have two airports in the county.
Stahoviak has been participating in most commissioner meetings via phone conferences since mid-December, when she was flown to a Denver hospital because of life-threatening kidney failure and infections. In recent months, she has had temporary replacements with antibiotics installed in both knees, and one permanent knee replacement installed. Her final surgery is scheduled for Aug. 24.
"I feel that I have continued to do my job, to represent the citizens of Routt County throughout this time," Stahoviak said. She said she has stayed up on all the issues, and has been available to talk to residents.
Plus, she said, she loves the job.
"I truly love serving the county as a commissioner. It's something I feel I was destined to do when I started my life in public service 25 years ago," Stahoviak said. "I try to do what's best for all of Routt County on every issue."
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