Steamboat Springs Steve Ivancie was sworn in as a Routt County commissioner Monday afternoon. The former Steamboat Springs City Council member and state House candidate has to get up to speed quickly — his first vote comes Tuesday.
Ivancie, a Democrat, replaces Diane Mitsch Bush, who resigned from her seat to represent House District 26 at the state Capitol.
While Tuesday will be Ivancie’s first meeting on the other side of the table, he’s been attending Board of Commissioners meetings during the past three months and said he is acquainted with the issues facing the county.
Some of the most visible issues facing the board stem from oil and gas exploration.
“I’m very proud of what the previous board has done. They’re looking out for the best interests of Routt County,” Ivancie said. “I will continue in that same vein.”
Though the board is now filled by three Democrats, Ivancie says they will work in the best interest of all Routt County residents.
Energy extraction is a balancing act, Ivancie said. Routt County has to balance the interest of today with the interests of tomorrow, and property rights with stewardship of the environment.
Ivancie said he knows several members of the group Citizens Supporting Property Rights, which advocates for mineral rights owners. He said he respects the views of the group’s members and is willing to listen them.
“Let’s come to an understanding of what we first agree on, and let’s work from there,” Ivancie said. “We can see a lot of these things in the same light.”
Also tied to oil and gas issues is Routt County’s relationship with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“I think Routt County has shown some real leadership,” Ivancie said. The county’s relationship with Shell Oil has been beneficial for understanding its process and showing that the county’s requests are not over the top, he said. Shell Oil has agreed to more than 60 conditions Routt County has placed on oil and gas well permit applications, including groundwater quality monitoring.
“Here’s an example of industry and a government entity working together,” he said, adding that he looks forward to working with Shell in the future.
He said he hopes the COGCC sees the benefit in the county’s relationship with Shell.
Asked about another hot topic during the past election cycle — the economy — Ivancie is more cautious.
Routt County has to focus on maintaining what it has now, he said.
“First of all, do no harm,” Ivancie said, adding that uncertainty in the national economy and Washington, D.C., needs to be considered.
“It will continue to be a challenge no matter what happens,” he said.
Local governments need to work together, he said, to make Routt County an attractive place for small business and clean industry.
He said he’ll have to become more familiar with the ways Routt County can work toward that goal.
Ivancie also said the county and the city should continue to work together to support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and address the issue of affordable housing in the valley. The problem never really went away even as the dynamics and intensity changed, he said.
“The need is always going to be there,” Ivancie said about providing workforce housing. “In order for us to attract good people and keep them here, we’re going to have to face the fact we will have to stay serious about this issue.”
“You build healthy, strong communities with families,” he said.
Government has an important role to play, he said, and he’d rather see well-intentioned efforts than letting the problem fester.
Whether that’s public/private partnerships or supporting families through groups like First Impressions, Ivancie said he wants to see young families settle here and live the life he said he was fortunate to live.
Looking out the window at the falling snow Monday — “we call it Champagne powder, but it’s white gold,” he remarked — Ivancie said he’s always been bullish on Routt County.
“That’s why I feel the way I do about public service,” he said. “I want to do my best and use my talents and experience to do what’s best for Routt County.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com