Commissioner race heats up

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— Diane Mitsch Bush says there are clear differences between her and fellow Routt County commissioner candidate Paul Strong.

Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, challenged the record of Strong, a Republican, on Thursday. Strong doesn't have the appropriate countywide experience or knowledge of local agricultural issues to be the best candidate for county commissioner, she said.

Strong countered that he has spent a lifetime dealing with agriculture-related issues and that he has better experience in local government, which includes working with staff from city and county departments.

"I've made county policy, he hasn't," said Mitsch Bush, who said she began volunteer work on local issues in 1988. She has served on the Routt County Planning Commission for the past 10 years. "Eighteen years of county government is different than seven years of city government. I've worked since 1996 with my fellow planning commissioners, county staff and citizens to improve Routt County policies, as a county official. That's the difference."

Mitsch Bush said Strong has misrepresented his experience in recent candidate debates and public forums.

"I have not re-packaged myself for this race," Mitsch Bush said. "I continue to be who I have been for 18 years: an advocate for the people of Routt County, for our rural character, against sprawl and congestion, and for preventing the further loss of ag lands and wildlife habitats."

"He has no record (on these issues)," she said.

Mitsch Bush cited her work to preserve the Lake Catamount area from development and to help implement the Purchase of Development Rights, or PDR, land program as examples of her agricultural conservation ethic.

Strong contested Mitsch Bush's statements Thursday, saying he has been involved with agriculture "all his life," beginning with his childhood in Kansas and continuing in his career as a certified public accountant.

"I have agricultural clients," Strong said. "Examining the income and expenses of those clients, I see what it takes to make agriculture viable. I think I have experience there that she doesn't."

Strong said that during his seven years on the Steamboat Springs City Council he has supported numerous agricultural needs including funding for the Community Agriculture Alliance, the PDR program and conservation easements.

Strong is a member of the Yampa/White Basin Roundtable, one of nine roundtable groups that guide water policy across the state.

He said that if elected, he would be able to smoothly transition from city to county government.

"I don't foresee any problems working with any of the staff on the county level," Strong said. "Are there differences between city and county government? Certainly. But I have broad experience in local government, working with many departments on a variety of issues. You certainly don't get that experience from the Planning Commission."

Strong cited his service on the Area Plan Coordinating Committee and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport Advisory Board, his two years as co-chairman of the preschool advocacy group First Impressions of Routt County, and his efforts to facilitate redevelopment around the base of Steamboat Ski Area as examples of work with various city and county departments.

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