County assessor race contested

Republican Dick Klumker announces candidacy during precinct caucuses

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Mike Kerrigan is no longer running solo in the race for Routt County Assessor.

Republican Dick Klumker, a retired commercial airline pilot who lives in Yampa, announced his candidacy during precinct caucuses Tuesday night. Kerrigan is a Democrat serving as chief appraiser in the county assessor's office.

Citizens across Routt County took part in the caucuses, which kicked off a contentious election year and provided a forum for the public to meet with candidates for local races, including assessor, Routt County sheriff and County commissioner; to talk about local issues; to select delegates for upcoming county assemblies; and to draft resolutions that could help shape national party platforms.

Although Steamboat Springs Democrats combined all of their precincts into one large caucus held at Steamboat Springs Middle School -- a lively event attended by more than 100 people -- local Republicans held caucuses at numerous locations, as did members of both parties in West Routt, North Routt and South Routt.

State Sen. Jack Taylor host--ed Steamboat's Precinct 4 Rep--ublican caucus at his home near Routt County Road 36, in the Strawberry Park area. To an intimate audience of 12 sitting on couches and chairs before a stone hearth, Sen. Taylor's wife, Geneva, read a letter from Klumker announcing his candidacy for the assessor's office.

"After concluding my 36-year flying career with Frontier and Continental Airlines, I am a flight instructor specializing in mountain operations," stated the letter by Klumker, who was born in Steamboat and raised in Toponas. "I now wish to begin a public career working for you as your next Routt County Assessor. Because I want your confidence that I will do the job you are entitled to, I am willing to begin now to study and prepare for this position."

Mike Cook, a retired Air Force colonel who attended the caucus at the Taylor home, said Klumker likely faces "an uphill battle" against Kerrigan, who has more than 11 years experience in the field and has been an appraiser in Routt County for more than four years.

"I have the knowledge, experience and education to successfully perform the statutory and civic duties of the county assessor," reads a letter distributed by Kerrigan. "I understand and respect the assessor's role in establishing fair and equitable property valuations."

Kerrigan spoke at the Dem--ocrats' middle school caucus Tuesday night and was followed on the stage by County commissioner candidates Diane Mitsch Bush and Bill Martin, who are squaring off in the only contested Routt County primary so far.

"In the next decade, Routt County will be faced with unprecedented growth," said Mitsch Bush, vice-chairwoman of the Routt County Planning Commission. "My vision is for Routt County to be sustainable economically, environmentally, culturally and socially."

Martin, a former City Council president, said he would facilitate cooperation and communication among all governing bodies in Routt County. In response to a question from the audience about Steamboat Springs Airport -- a hot topic recently because of the City Council evaluating future plans for the airport -- Martin explained why he voted against expanding that facility as a council member in 1993.

"Yampa Valley Regional Air--port is our lifeline," Martin said. "That is where we need to focus our attention."

City Council member Paul Strong is the only Republican running for County commissioner. At the Taylor home Tuesday night, Strong said he is working to learn more about the entire county and would not be just a Steamboat voice on the commission.

"Over the next eight months, I will spend a lot of time all over the county -- I will drive every mile of county roads this summer," said Strong, who also said "preserving our agricultural operations and the agricultural landscape is a top priority" for the county.

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