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RBC I Incumbent Rio Blanco County Commissioner Jeff Eskelson will seek re-election to his position with the county this fall. Eskelson, whose only opponent so far is fellow Republican and former Rio Blanco County Sheriff Si Woodruff, is hopeful that voters will give him the opportunity to finish the work he started when he was first elected in 2012.
“The main points of my first campaign were a more business-friendly county for the constituents and economic development,” he said. “As a team, the current board of county commissioners has implemented business-friendly policies and procedures to assist, rather than hinder any individual needing services from Rio Blanco County.
“We, as a team, defined and hired a project coordinator to develop and utilize methods, tools and processes county-wide, conducive to better project scheduling, implementation and cost control. We, as a team, along with our great county employees have developed and implemented unprecedented strategies solving rural broadband issues,” Eskelson said. “We have also made great strides in tackling the amorphous and difficult task of trying to level the economic highs and lows of being an energy extraction dependent county. These projects and relationships all take a tremendous amount of time and energy to implement. Put simply, I want to finish what we’ve started.”
Eskelson believes he has learned a lot from his experience on the board working with fellow commissioners Shawn Bolton and Jon Hill (who is also up for re-election in his district) and he credits much of what they’ve accomplished to the teamwork of the three.
“First of all, a single commissioner can accomplish absolutely nothing without a cohesive board of county commissioners,” he said. “As a team, we have better, more in-depth state and federal representation than at any time in the county’s history.
“We have sought and acquired over $10.8 million in additional project funding just from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) alone,” Eskelson said. “These are dollars that would not have been introduced to this county without diligence, great external relationships and hard work.
“We have completed a Land Use Rewrite from top to bottom,” he said. “During this process, WPX Energy was a partner financially in supplying a well-qualified consultant but also in developing policies that help rather than hinder business while protecting the constituents to the best of our ability.
“We are not just statewide but nationwide leaders in solving the rural broadband issues, as well as developing leading-edge economic development strategies,” Eskelson said. “My involvement and continued development of AGNC (The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado) as its chairman are leading to Northwestern Colorado really becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the room at the state Legislature.”
Eskelson said his job has not been without its challenges and, for him, some of the most difficult aspects of the job include the slow pace of government and attacks from outside special interest groups.
“Having patience with the snail’s pace that most, if not all, government agencies operate has been a challenge,” he said. “Fighting the never-ending battle of the state and federal government constantly attacking or pilfering funding that rightfully belongs to the constituents of Rio Blanco County has been a challenge.
One of the biggest challenges are irrational, specialized target groups such as Wild Earth Guardians picking away at valid permits, allowing federal officials to put in question the viable, exceptionally important jobs we have with our coal mines, agriculture, oil and gas,” he said.
The next step for Eskelson is to appear before the Rio Blanco County Assembly delegates on March 12 at 1 p.m. There, he and any other Republican contenders to the position will give a short speech and be voted upon by the delegates. In order to appear on the Republican primary ballot in June, candidates will need to receive a minimum of 30 percent of the delegate vote. Candidates receiving between 10 and 29 percent can still complete a petition process to get onto the ballot.
When asked if he will try to petition onto the ballot should he fail to achieve 30 percent of the vote at the assembly Eskelson responded, “Yes, I feel this job is vital enough to the county to petition.”
Should he be re-elected, Eskelson hopes to continue on the work of the last four years.
“I would like to see rural broadband come to fruition,” he said. “I would like to continue to promote economic development, recognizing that this is a very lengthy process that takes long-term commitment.
Another goal is to continue to promote AGNC’s growth and maturity as its chairman,” Eskelson said. “We acknowledge that we are standing on the shoulders of financially conservative commissioners. These commissioners had the foresight to increase the county’s fund balance in order to execute the capital projects this board has completed without debt. The future plan does not differ from that of any previous board in that we intend to increase the county’s fund balance prior to executing capital projects.”
Eskelson is hopeful that voters will desire to see the current work of the commissioners continue on by re-electing him, saying, “It took time, but eventually we all understood implicitly that all of us as commissioners had the entire county as a priority over special interests or individual agendas. With that relationship, I’ll argue you have the strongest team as a board of county commissioners that you’ve ever had.
“Please keep this team together, there isn’t a single soul reading this that won’t be glad you did,” he said.