Nancy Stahoviak, who has served as a county commissioner for the past 12 years, is seeking another term for one reason: She loves the job.
Mike Kien, an Oak Creek Town Board trustee, wants a chance to put his Libertarian values to practice on a larger level.
This November, the two candidates are facing off for the District 1 county commissioner seat to represent South Routt County.
One key difference between the candidates is their stances on how to deal with the upcoming tight budget year and the subsequent tight years that could follow.
Stahoviak, a Republican and South Routt's incumbent county commissioner, says her priorities for what to fund fall in line with the county's strategic goals.
Her top goal is to provide employees with competitive pay rates and benefits, followed by the goals of funding a new justice center at the most reasonable cost possible and doing a good job of providing mandated county services.
Kien thinks government already collects and spends too much taxpayer money, so a tight budget is a step in the right direction. He said he would like to see that budget decrease further, resulting in no net gain in taxes and giving individuals more control over their money.
Stahoviak said she not only has a passion for the work, but she also has the experience and skills to do it well.
"I truly love this job, that's why I do it," the Oak Creek resident said. "I feel that I'm good at really trying to be a problem solver ... and trying to listen to all sides of a problem before I make a decision."
In the coming years, working under a tight county budget that parallels serious statewide budget cuts is a "huge" issue, Stahoviak said.
Stahoviak's top priority, something she said she worked on when she was first elected, is to ensure the county provides its employees with competitive salaries and benefits.
Paying employees competitive rates makes it easier to retain them, which means savings for the county because it does not have to advertise for, interview, hire and train new employees, she said.
"When we look at our county employees, they are the individuals who provide the services to our constituency," Stahoviak said. "We have to take care of these employees, and it's critical that we do."
Her other key goals are funding a new justice center at a reasonable cost and continuing to serve the county's residents well, Stahoviak said.
She also plans to continue to look seriously at what options are available to increase revenues. For instance, departments that charge fees may need to increase those charges.
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 that moving the courts would take investment and business away from downtown, among other negative effects.
If the county does not receive the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that it needs to fill 1.4 acres of wetlands before building on the site, it would have to look at options to contest the decision, find another place to build or take another route, she said.
She said she supports the western site more than building downtown because it would be less expensive, allows county offices to grow into the downtown campus, and is what the majority of county residents want, Stahoviak said.
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. Wherever a pit is located, it's important that any issues residents bring up are mitigated, she said.
The process used to develop the Emerald Mountain land swap continues to concern Stahoviak, who said it does not appear that the Bureau of Land Management followed its own guidelines for land trades.
Stahoviak's priorities also include pursuing solutions to the need for affordable housing through the newly created Yampa Valley Housing Authority, and finding ways to provide good early childhood care and education through First Impressions of Routt County.
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.
Stahoviak has served on various nonprofit boards. She is a trustee to the Yampa Valley Medical Center Board and a member on the Routt County Education Foundation and the South Routt Early Learning Center Board. She is the vice president of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the co-chairwoman of 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, both of which are governor-appointed positions.
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 the past months, she has had temporary replacements with antibiotics installed in both knees, and one permanent knee replacement installed. Her final surgery was scheduled for Aug. 24, but was delayed until Oct. 12.
"I think I have done a good job of not only keeping up on what's going on in the county, but (also) participating," Stahoviak said.
Kien, who works as a maintenance manager for North Star properties, has said from the start that he wanted to run for the position to offer Routt County residents a choice.
"If I had not jumped through the hoops, there would be no choice," he said, referring to the fact that he is the multiple-term incumbent commissioner's only challenger.
He said when he entered the race, he did not expect to have a good chance of winning but thought he could at least get his "two cents" out to the public. Now, he thinks his chances of winning are higher, and said if voted in, he would do a good job.
As a Libertarian, Kien stands behind the principles that government is too expensive and that it should be more easily available to the public.
"I would consider whether it's more appropriate for you to decide how to spend your money, or for a group of government officials to decide how to spend your money," he said about looking at county budgets.
Kien said he thinks taxes are "far too high," and that tight budgets are positive change, he said.
One way to further decrease taxes is to privatize aspects of county services, such as those offered by the planning and road and bridge departments, letting individuals and groups pay for the things they need.
For instance, Kien said he would recommend the county sell the Yampa Valley Regional Airport to a private company.
Kien's priorities, if elected, are to provide safety to residents, which he said comes through a strong sheriff's department.
However, he said he would try to take away contributions to the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, which he thinks has overstepped its bounds through unnecessary drug searches.
Beyond public safety, he said he would use funds to provide for needs as they come up, using experience he's gained sitting on the Oak Creek Town Board.
Kien said he is against building the justice center on the proposed west of downtown Steamboat Springs site because it requires filling wetlands.
"I personally am against my tax dollars being used to fill wetlands," he said. He also is against using certificates of participation to fund part of the building, because they do not have to be approved by voters.
He would prefer updating the downtown building and constructing two smaller buildings to provide more space, but less than county commissioners have estimated would be required for current and future needs.
Related to the Emerald Mountain land swap, Kien said he supports preserving Emerald Mountain and that most of the current plan to do so "makes sense." Through selling off parcels, the Bureau of Land Management eventually could go out of business, he said.
On the topic of gravel pits in the area south of Steamboat Springs, Kien said the bottom line should be what the property owners want to do with their land. If the property owners want to sell their land for a gravel pit, they should be able to do so.
Kien said one of his greatest failures as an Oak Creek Town Board member was not getting support from the Town Board for his resolution to oppose the USA Patriot Act.
Kien acknowledged that if he were elected as a county commissioner, it could be difficult to make many of his Libertarian ideals happen because another county commissioner would have to vote along with him.
For instance, he may not be able to take funding away from GRAMNET as a county commissioner, but he could make a point, he said.
"I feel that I would be effective in the terms that it needs to be pointed out that these folks have gone against their boundaries," Kien said.
Kien served in the military for three years and was honorably discharged in 1980. He has lived in Colorado for the past 22 years and in Oak Creek for the past 14 years. He has served as director for Oak Creek's Labor Day celebrations.
In 1997, he was appointed town trustee for the Oak Creek Town Board, and then was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. If elected as county commissioner, he would resign from that position.