Click here for coverage of this year's races and issues.
Occupation: President, TIMCO Walls & Ceilings Inc.
Prior political experience: First elected to Soroco School Board in 2003; re-elected in 2007 and 2011. Board president since 2006.
Years in Routt County: 31
Family: Wife, Donna (37 years); children Megan, Leah, Kaylie and Kieran
Civic involvement: Oak Creek Hockey and Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League (1992-2008)
Q. Improving the local economy is often cited as your top priority, if elected. Identify three specific actions you would take as county commissioner that would directly impact Routt County’s economy.
A. I will work to implement the top five goals and strategies identified in the 2011 “Bottom-Up” County Economic Development Survey, including expansion of educational opportunities; cellular coverage; broadband capabilities; tourism; and maintaining coal production. I will also work to integrate and manage oil and gas development in a manner that enhances our existing economic strengths while protecting our environment and our quality of life. I will seek ways to create partnerships with public and private entities and I will explore all possibilities for grant funding.
Q. Declining local property valuations could have a significant impact on the county budget in the next couple of years. What areas of the county budget are best suited for cuts? And what is your position on using reserves to pay for operating expenses?
A. Declining property values could have an impact on the county budget. There is at least an equal chance that we are at or near the bottom of property valuations. I do not think that it makes sense for me to identify future theoretical budget cuts that may be unnecessary. Having said that, my general approach to budget cuts is to identify whole programs for elimination rather than “across the board” percentage reductions. Any decisions around program reductions should only be made after receiving input from all stakeholders and careful consideration. While I am intrinsically opposed to using reserves to pay for operating expenses, I recognize that it is sometimes necessary in order to preserve critical services on a short-term basis. I would never say “never” when it comes to future budget decisions.
Q. Oil and gas exploration is a hot-button issue for many residents. Do you support the actions taken by the current Board of Commissioners as they relate to energy development within Routt County? If so, why? If not, what measures do you oppose, and why?
A. Over the last year I have attended almost every meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the Routt County Planning Commission and the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley as they relate to oil and gas development. I support the process and the decisions the county commissioners have made to date. The commissioners have carefully reviewed the special use permit (SUP) applications and imposed common-sense conditions of approval that protect the health, safety and welfare of Routt County’s citizens while still honoring the private property rights of mineral lease-holders. I think that moving forward, the process can and should be streamlined. It is my hope that a basic template for the issuance of SUPs for oil and gas development is largely in place, and that applicants and the public alike now have some certainty regarding SUP applications.
Q. Do you believe the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and state regulations are sufficient for protecting the health, safety and environment in Routt County?
A. No, not until those regulations include baseline water monitoring and provide for the same limits on emissions of VOC’s that are currently required for the ozone “non-attainment” zone on the Front Range. There is no good reason why reasonable and practicable methods of air-quality control should not be required here in Routt County. Enforcement of existing regulations is also lacking. Fortunately, it appears that new EPA regulations will supplant Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines for air-quality issues. In addition, the COGCC is moving toward making its voluntary baseline water-monitoring program mandatory. There may still be some issues surrounding setbacks that will need to be addressed on a local level.
Q. Name your top three priorities if elected to the Board of Commissioners and how you would accomplish them.
A. 1) Closely monitor the current-year budget and plan for next year’s budget. I would devote a substantial amount of time to fully understanding county revenues and expenses, and how they impact the county’s ability to efficiently deliver critical services and maintain its infrastructure.
2) Work with the community and county employees to ensure that we adhere to Routt County’s core values of trust, integrity, effectiveness, efficiency and fiscal responsibility. I would confer with the county manager and department heads as well as individual staff members to make sure that all employees share these values and make them relevant to their work.
3) Plan for the future. I would review Routt County’s Master Plan and the existing regulations that support it to ensure that these documents adequately address the future needs of the county.
Q. What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
A. My record of experience and achievement as an elected official and as an active citizen in South Routt County, my long career as a small-business owner in Steamboat Springs, and my willingness to immerse myself in the details of government.
And, of course, I am a Telemark skier, and my opponent is a downhill skier.
Q. Would you make it a priority to restore employee pay to pre-recession levels and to provide annual pay increases? If so, how would you pay for it?
A. I would answer that question in two parts. First, yes, I would support restoring employee pay to pre-recession levels. I believe that there is room in the 2013 budget for this. Second, I think it is important to provide for annual pay increases as long as they are sustainable. I don’t know if future revenues will support annual pay increases, but I am optimistic that we can find a way to fairly compensate our hard-working employees.
Q. Routt County was scheduled to spend up to $767,840 this summer to put asphalt patches on a county road system that is deteriorating. However, with little help coming from the state, and the assessed valuation of the county declining, projections show the Road and Bridge Department fund balance will continue to decline. What, if anything, can be done to shore up funding and do more to improve Routt County’s roads?
A. It is true that projections show a declining fund balance until 2028, with a modest rebound after that. It is also true that assessed valuation may continue to decline. I remain optimistic that valuations are at or near the bottom, and that we will begin to see some modest improvement in valuations as well as some modest growth in new construction. In addition, revenues from oil and gas development hold the potential to increase county revenues. Finally, it may be necessary to revisit county budget priorities. Small changes now can “bend the curve” of future projections.
Q. Someday, the national and local economy will recover and Routt County’s population will grow, as will the need for workforce housing. Do you think county planning initiatives have adequately prepared us to manage that growth in the best interests of existing residents and communities across the county? What steps would you take?
A. I believe Routt County has adequate and effective tools in place to manage future growth. The work that has been done to identify future growth areas adjacent to existing municipalities should limit “urban sprawl” while at the same time providing flexibility for existing towns to manage their own growth. I would encourage continued cooperation between and among Routt County and the existing municipalities. I strongly support the partnership of the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County in the development of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update.