RBC | Candidates for the two contested county races had an opportunity to answer questions prepared by members of the Meeker High School Student Council Monday. Due to extenuating circumstances for both the forum planners and one candidate, questions from the public were not taken, but questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the individual candidates.
Student council representatives Brandon Lozano and Brynlee Williams moderated the forum.
Incumbent Boots Campbell and challenger Emma Vaughn, both running for county clerk and recorder, responded to seven questions, followed by six questions for commissioner candidates Reed Kelley and, representing his father-in-law Gary Moyer, Matt Scott. Moyer was unable to attend after undergoing hip replacement surgery last week.
Clerk and Recorder Questions
1. How important do you think public relations are in this office?
Vaughn: Accessibility to the clerk and recorder’s office, I believe, is imperative in helping with public transparency and should be sincere and authentic.
Campbell: The clerk, and every department in this office, does nothing but exist for the public. That’s who we serve.
2. Should the clerk and recorder’s office be responsible for improving voter turnout?
Vaughn: That is our job as an elected official, to teach the public the statutes and laws and encourage people to get involved in their local government. I want to further cultivate that curiosity and involvement.
Campbell: We’re very conscientious. We have the website, we use the newspaper and we also have things posted in our office. We’re always open and it is our mission to make sure we get the most voters out.
3. How important do you think experience is in this office?
Vaughn: My experience may not be as many cumulative years as Ms. Campbell here, but I will tell you that my experience is different, and I believe in the last three years in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office it’s been more intense, and my prior years—10 years—of being a business owner and in my lifetime comparatively.
Campbell: The clerk and recorder’s job is not a learn-as-you-go. You have to be familiar with every aspect of that department before you can even think about doing the job. You have to have not only experience, you have to have connections, and I have connections … but it takes a long time to make those connections.
4. What are ways that you plan to further develop data and file accessibility such as meeting minutes and election information?
Campbell: Election information, motor vehicle information, recorded documents, they’re all available on the county website and are frequently updated. Results of elections are also available on the website and are updated several times during the night on Election Day. Commissioners’ agendas, minutes and resolutions are all posted there, and right now the commissioners are working with the clerk and everyone else involved with the commissioners’ offices to set up on the website something called City Clerk. We’re going to be videoing all the county commissioners’ meetings and they’re going to be available on the website to watch live or at any given time.
Vaughn: I will be applying for grants for the rest of our records online to be easily accessible. Just this year at the CCCA conference which I personally attended, Lincoln County was awarded $32,000 … to digitize records and I plan on applying for one of those grants. There are other grants out there as well to safeguard our records as our history over the past 100 years sits in a fireproof safe, in books that have been well-preserved but are decaying with each human contact and page turned. The information needs to be backed up. I’d also be looking at utilizing a work study with the high school to scan these documents in. Election information is available on the website, but you can also go to govotecolorado.com and see the process your ballot is going through.
5. How do you plan on engaging youth in county government?
Campbell: We would very much to have someone come up and do their vocational at the clerk’s office. We’ve got fascinating things in that office I would totally welcome any student to come up to look around or we would be more than happy to have you as a vocational student.
Vaughn: As it is their right to vote, I believe it is their due diligence to figure out why it’s important to be involved and to understand that each vote matters. I want to start this relationship at a young age by inviting elementary school students in for tours and mock elections. I want to foster a love of civic duty and learning and be an example.
6. What is the most crucial job that the clerk and recorder has and why?
Campbell: The most crucial job is to be a responsible, caring and knowledgeable supervisor and leader. I have six full-time and two part-time employees in my office. Everything that the whole office does is important, but if you don’t have a strong, responsible and knowledgeable leader it’s easy to get lost.
Vaughn: I believe the most crucial job is updating the records and making sure they are easily accessible and online for our constituents’ access. I believe safeguarding the integrity of the election system and making sure that we safely keep the information given to us by our constituents, and maintaining the confidence and trust they have in us to do so. I also believe making sure the records are a true and accurate account of proceedings and happenings, and that transparency is essential.
7. Given all other candidates are equal, why should the public vote for you?
Vaughn: As a county clerk and recorder, I believe we are the guardians of the election system, the guardians of the truth, and the protectors of our county’s elaborate history. It takes a morally strong individual to protect the authenticity of these foundational markers.
Campbell: I’ve been here in Meeker for 36 years. I have 13 years of experience in the clerk and recorder’s office. I started on the bottom rung of the ladder and it took a long time to climb clear up to where I am now, but when my predecessor decided to retire, I knew I was ready and no one else in the office felt that way. I was voted in in 2014. I truly believe knowledge and experience matter to all responsible voters.
County Commissioner Questions
1. What one area of county government would receive more attention if you were to be elected?
Kelley: We particularly have a problem with Russian olive and tamarisk in the county that we’re legally responsible for doing something about in this county. The other things I think need more attention are maintaining and improving our access to quality health care. Related to that, our end of the county [Meeker] can’t seem to keep a good child care system in place and by that I mean child daycare. I think the county could help with that, it ties in inexorably to child welfare and our human services department. I think it’s up to the county commissioners to work hard to provide an atmosphere that’s successful for our education programs, our health care and a variety of things that yes, have other boards, but still need a healthy county atmosphere to be successful.
Moyer: In addition to taking a hard look at removing burdensome and thus unnecessary regulations within the county, I’m a strong proponent for pushing for real multiple use of our public lands. I believe that the creation of the Rio Blanco County Natural Resource Land Use Plan, we now have a more effective tool to protect the customs and cultures of the people of the county. If elected, I intend to put a large effort into its implementation.
2. What are some examples of large capital projects that you see are important for RBC in the future?
Kelley: The current county budget emphasizes that we need to save up for a while. We’ve spent quite a bit of money in the last few years on some significant county projects. I’m certainly willing to listen and consider capital projects, but I know for a fact that the county budget is very straightforward that we need to hold up for a while and build up some finances so that we might be able to do a capital project of some significance down the road. We don’t have that ability right now and shouldn’t be attempting something that we couldn’t fund.
Moyer: I think the large number of capital projects recently completed and currently ongoing that our taxpayers are funding and will continue to fund the maintenance of, we need to be very cautious in starting new ones. With the uncertainty of future economic conditions, it would be premature at this point to speculate too heavily on any major capital improvement projects at this time, with the exception of possibly more user-funded projects [e.g. county broadband project]. In the future, if economic conditions improve and we are financially sound, we can then prioritize what the county’s role should be in funding or assisting to fund capital improvements that would be most beneficial.
3. What role do you think county government should have in economic development?
Moyer: To me, economic development is first the desire to increase the level of economic activity. The county government’s role in increasing economic activity should be done by creating a business-friendly environment for all types of businesses. This environment is the result of minimal regulations, a level playing field for all, and a minimal level of taxation on everyone. The role of the economic development department should be to remove roadblocks for existing businesses and industry as well as new businesses and industry looking to expand in the county. I don’t believe it’s the role of government to influence what businesses or even what types of businesses are the winners and losers. I think that when allowed to, and not interfered with by government, the free market will result in the best fit for our county.
Kelley: We’ve learned a lot, I think, from the, unfortunately, pretty significant amount of money we’ve spent on outside consultants in the past few years. We’ve got some documentation and some good ideas that need follow-through. Some of those ideas maybe haven’t been as good as hoped [e.g. Adventure Center], but we’ve got ideas, and one good thing about that is the county could try to enhance and take advantage of the recreational resources we have here. It’s also important that we do maintain and try to improve the infrastructure [e.g. broadband, road and bridge, etc.] that supports businesses in this county. I believe in Rio Blanco County first. I believe we can do more with local gumption, homegrown prosperity, not spend a lot of money down the road on outside consultants but rely on ourselves. I have to take my hat off to those people that are trying new things that might end up being quite productive [e.g. hemp production, hemp products, hops production maybe leading to a microbrewery]. I think we ought to be saying yes to as many things as we can to diversify the economic strength and activity in this county.
4. If elected, how will you make decisions regarding allocations of CCITF (County and Capital Improvement Trust Fund) grants?
Editor’s Note: CCITF is a $20 million trust fund the county uses the interest from to fund special projects.
Moyer: I support the concept of granting the interest yearly and maintaining the fund balance at its current amount. I also support, based on the current requirements, awarding grants based on the strength of the application and the need for the capital improvement project.
Kelley: CCITF annual payouts are approaching $1 million a year, about 2.5 percent of the total budget. The commissioners need to take a good look at the total picture of our tax collections and our tax assessments, because we may want to apply some different priorities. The CCITF funds in the past have been spent typically on some of these same districts and special projects, I would like to see a more strategic approach as to how these funds are being spent, rather than depending on what proposals come in independently each year. Maybe take a more proactive approach to how this 2.5 percent of the budget could be used to further the vision of the county.
5. How would you support the energy sector (oil, gas, and coal) while protecting the interests of the citizens of Rio Blanco County?
Kelley: The energy sector is unfortunately influenced by outside pressures that we can’t affect much, primarily international markets in energy. However, it’s my impression that we provide a pretty good atmosphere right now for oil, gas and coal in this county. I know the county commissioners currently have approved a resolution urging the development of the Jordan Cove project along the west coast in Oregon to export liquified natural gas and if that comes into fruition, the hope of course is that we’ll have a better market than we currently seem to have for Piceance gas. But, again, that’s totally dependent on international markets and we may want to be very cautious about the whole boom-bust cycle of getting into something that would crash as a result of those international markets. Again, I stress the importance of looking at where do we go as fossil fuels begin to phase out as part of our whole economy in the country? What are we looking at for homegrown prosperity that can replace some of the coal, oil and gas jobs that we’ve had, while we try to maintain those businesses as long as we can? I think we need to emphasize those recreational opportunities that we have and those recreational values, perhaps more than we have to date, because we’ve been being carried so successfully by oil, gas and coal.
Moyer: As a side note, when the Jordan Cove project does come through, 40 percent of all the natural gas supplies will come from our Piceance Basin, which will provide some good stability for us. But first and foremost, it’s important to understand that the energy sector is made up of the citizens of Rio Blanco County. It’s also important to point out that in Colorado, this sector is under the most stringent environmental regulations in all 50 states. This sector pays 85 percent of the property taxes collected in our county. A large number of the businesses in our county are a direct result of the energy sector and it provides employment opportunities for many of us. The best thing Rio Blanco County can do to support this sector is to insure a business-friendly environment and insist that the federal land management decisions are consistent with the Rio Blanco County Natural Resource Land Use Management Plan. Promoting a business-friendly environment and implementing this land use plan will support all sectors of our economy and protect our citizens’ livelihood and future.
6. Given all other candidates are equal, why should the public vote for you?
Moyer: For the last 35 years I’ve been a small business owner who has worked with a number of different individuals in both the retail and agricultural setting. I believe that to be a successful county commissioner it is important to have a business background, not only from a supervisory standpoint, but also having the experience of having to meet payroll and deal with and implement government regulation, necessary and otherwise. For the last 10 years, I have represented the interests of private landowners of Rio Blanco County at both the state and national levels with my volunteer activities with the White River Conservation District. The policy issues I have represented … were accomplished through a grassroots effort based on local landowner input and not an out-of-county special interest group. I’ve spoken to and testified in front of high-ranking government officials and elected members of Congress on the need for active forest management to prevent catastrophic die-off and wildfires like those we’ve experienced throughout the western U.S. I’ve provided testimony as a member of a panel discussion in front of the joint water committee at the state Capitol advocating for private landowners for private water rights in an attempt by the Forest Service to claim the authority to require forfeiture of water rights as a condition of issuing or reissuing public land permits. Throughout this election process my beliefs have remained consistent and will continue to well after election day. Moreover, I am a product of the local customs and culture of this area and my beliefs and viewpoints have been consistent and unwavering, and more importantly, representative of the majority of those who live in Rio Blanco County. My family and I are proud to call Rio Blanco County our home and I will work hard to make this a place you can be successful and proud of as well. This election provides the opportunity to choose between two candidates who have a proven track record that is vastly different in regard to natural resource management and the role of government in general.
Kelley: Is there someone there who knows the current motto of the Meeker football team? [Do more, say less.] I want to thank you because I thought it was a great campaign slogan. The top reason for supporting me is brought to mind by an old saying that “old age and treachery can overcome skill and youth at any time,” and I’m old. Other things I wanted to mention at this point in this discussion, I’m empathetic with Gary and sorry he was not able to be here … I see myself as a much better listener that perhaps Gary is. I certainly don’t think I have all the answers already. I’m prepared to listen; I’m prepared to learn, and I want to be proactive about this community. I want to be active in making this a community that is ripe for business, ripe for business expansion, but also ripe for the welfare of the citizens who live here in terms of continuing access to quality healthcare, good education … I am definitely in favor of Amendment 4A [in support of building a new high school and bus garage in Meeker] and I think that’s what leadership is: being able to stand up and say what you’re in support of. I’m very concerned and very appreciative of what the county has done to encourage active solution-finding for our river issues with the algae in the White River. And to all of you, if you have any questions, please bring those up before the election season is over.