Three vie for seat on county commission

Shawn Bolton

RBC I Editor’s note: In advance of party caucuses March 16, the three candidates, all Republicans, vying for a seat on the Rio Blanco County Commission, which will be vacated by Joe Collins, who isn’t seeking reelection, were asked to respond to the same set of questions.

Here are their responses:

Shawn Bolton

Shawn Bolton
Occupation: My wife, Misty, and I own and operate Bolton Construction.
List relevant previous experience: I understand finances and budgets and the importance of spending within your means. Also, I do a lot of work with the oil and gas companies and private land owners.
What is your purpose for running?
My purpose for running is to use my experience and knowledge to benefit Rio Blanco County in a way that would improve the atmosphere for businesses and residents alike.
What are your thoughts on the proposed justice center and how do you think the county should proceed?
Before I could make a decision I would need to know the cost to the taxpayers, what are the taxpayers’ thoughts, what would be the uses (importing prisoners?), where it would be built (old elementary?), and how would it impact the county? I think the county should make sure this is the right step before taking it.
Why do you think you’re the best candidate for the job?
I currently work with the energy industry, private land owners and local and federal governments to resolve issues for the customers of Bolton Construction. These experiences give me the necessary tools, I feel, that would benefit the people as a commissioner.

Wendy Gutierrez
Wendy Gutierrez
Occupation/background: Founded in 1994, I am the owner of Wendll’s Wondrous Things and Cuppa Joe. I’m a third-generation Colorado native, born and raised in Colorado Springs. I am married to Bobby Gutierrez and between us, we have three grown children and four grandkids.
Relevant previous experience: I moved to Meeker 30 years ago and worked as an assistant to the project manager of Multi Mineral Corp., an experimental oil shale/nahcolite mining facility located on Lower Horse Draw in the Piceance Creek Basin.
After the federal synfuels monies were stopped, the project ended. I went to work for the Rio Blanco County assessor’s office in 1982 and quickly became our county’s first data processing coordinator. I worked with all the core county offices including assessor, treasurer, clerk and recorder, budget, extension, commissioners and planning and development on both ends of Rio Blanco County. I was charged with helping computerize Rio Blanco County, beginning with loading the schedules of assessment on all properties in the county. As the faces in many of these offices have since changed, the work of gathering data, transferring data, producing the tax roles and the budget process have essentially remained the same. I believe this experience will lessen my learning curve and I can begin helping our current commissioners Kai Turner and Ken Parsons.
What is your purpose for running?
I believe the experience as an owner of a successful business is something needed in all levels of government. A common-sense approach, an ability to unify and communicate with the public are skills I have learned over the years and continue to develop. I would like to use my 30 years of professional experience to help plan and move Rio Blanco County forward the next 30 years.
What strengths would you bring to the position?
My strengths are honesty, loyalty, experience, hard working, an ability to listen and make decisions, involvement and a strong desire to help make Rio Blanco County better.
What are your thoughts on the proposed justice center and how do you think the county should proceed?
There is no doubt we need to address the need to upgrade our current justice center, with the safety of all involved the main concern. This issue has been a priority of the current commissioners led by Joe Collins, before the state mandates and dictates how this is accomplished. I believe with the current dialogue between the citizens, the county and the town, a solution benefiting everyone can be accomplished. I have attended several meetings on this issue and will continue to be involved until the issue is resolved.
What are some of the other main issues you see facing the county?
To quote Meeker native Lori (Smith) McInnis, from her recent Lincoln Day dinner speech, our main issues are: “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” We are a community that is based in the energy world as a primary employer to the general sector and we need to do as much as we can to encourage the companies working or desiring to work in our area to employ our citizens. We need to encourage energy companies, or all companies, to locate or relocate to Rio Blanco County. We need more families to move to our county, strengthening our schools, businesses and housing market. If over-regulation is a problem, we as the gatekeepers need to address it at the county, state and federal levels.
Why are you the best candidate for the job
With all due respect to my fellow Republican candidates, they are both customers and I consider them friends, but I believe I am the best person for the job because of my 12 years of experience as an employee of Rio Blanco County, my 16 years as a business owner as well as my past and current community involvement. I understand how our county works and I am not afraid of the hard work it takes to open and operate a business and manage to stay involved in my community at the same time. I believe hard work and determination will always succeed.
I will use my ability to listen and communicate to best serve our county. I believe strongly that as long as we all work toward the best solution for all of us, then I know we will succeed. Accessibility and unity will bring industry, government and citizens together to achieve the best for Rio Blanco County.
As a small business owner, I have endeavored to make my business grow and prosper and as a county commissioner I would endeavor to do the same for Rio Blanco County. I ask the voters of Rio Blanco County for your support. Thank you.

Pat Hughes

Torrance Patrick (Pat) Hughes
Occupation: Owner of Western Slope Sod Farm.
List relevant previous experience: I have owned and operated a sod farm in Meeker for 12 years. I have a bachelor of science degree from Colorado State University in landscape horticulture. I have been active in several different areas of the community, including serving as president of the Rio Blanco County Golf Board in Meeker. In 2008, I served as a delegate to the Colorado Republican Convention. Serving as a delegate gave me a better understanding of the state political process. It is not only important to understand what is going on in local politics, but it is also important to be aware of what goes on at the state level.
What is your purpose for running?
I am running for county commissioner because I believe that it is our generation’s responsibility to make Rio Blanco County a better place not only for us, but also for future generations. There must be forethought in the decisions that we make today so that they do not infringe upon the liberties of future generations who choose to live and prosper here. I would like to work alongside all of the people in Rio Blanco County to move our county forward. I believe that through hard work, good communication and honesty we can accomplish great things. Through this process we can not only make our lives better, but we are also able to increase opportunities for future generations.
What strengths would you bring to the position?
By listening to and working with the people of Rio Blanco County I think that all of the challenges we face can be turned into great opportunities for this county to prosper. I believe that my common-sense approach to business and life would be an asset at the county level. As a small business owner, I’ve learned the value of a dollar. I also know how burdensome regulations and taxes can hinder the business community. I think that it is an important perspective to have at the county level. It is important for government officials to have open doors, so that lines of communication are constantly open. I have a strong sense of conviction and I realize that this would be a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job. If elected, I am ready to dedicate myself to building on our great historical foundation and make this an even better place for future generations.
What are your thoughts on the proposed justice center and how do you think the county should proceed?
The proposed justice center should be a great opportunity for Rio Blanco County and the town of Meeker to work together to make the most of the Meeker downtown while being responsible to the overall tax base. A vital downtown is critical to the success of many of our small local businesses and our sense of community. If I am elected and this is still an ongoing issue, I would want to make sure that the county had done all of the research necessary to know all of its options. I would want to fully understand the Colorado state mandates and their impact on taxpayers. The Rio Blanco County commissioners are ultimately responsible for making sure that all of our facilities meet state standards. I believe that there are reasonable compromises out there so that the historical nature of our downtown can be maintained while we consolidate county facilities in the downtown area. It will be important to make decisions that are not just shortsighted and convenient for today, but are well-thought-out and will make it possible for responsible, long-term growth and prosperity.
What are some of the other main issues you see facing the county?
Some of the current issues facing our county include major infrastructural needs, establishing and encouraging greater economic diversity, addressing concerns on water issues, redefining county lines, rewriting land use codes, impact fees, technology and communication upgrades, public safety and service concerns and ensuring that both ends of this county feel that they are fairly represented at the county level. Also important are the issues surrounding open communication with the citizens of Rio Blanco County. It is important for people to feel that their elected officials hear their voices and make them a part of the process. It is important that our county has responsible but reasonable regulations. We need regulations that everyone can understand and can follow. The regulations need to be consistently applied so that they don’t chase businesses out of our county. We need to welcome, encourage and support small and large business development in our communities. I have enjoyed talking and learning from the people in Rangely, Meeker and throughout the county. This has given me a better understanding of what the critical issues that affect their daily lives are. All of these issues are also great opportunities for the county. Rio Blanco County is made up of good, hard-working people who want to see this county prosper, while remaining true to our rural small-town values. I am sure that there are issues and concerns that I have not mentioned. I welcome voters to stop me in the street, call, e-mail or visit my Web site at www.hughesforcommissioner.com.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
I am a third-generation resident of Rio Blanco County. We are fortunate that we have had the opportunity to stay here in Meeker and raise our family. I am very proud of our county and I believe in our future. I would like our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities that we have had. When faced with a complex or controversial issue I am committed to keeping an open mind so that I can learn all of the facts and make the best possible decision. I am not afraid to admit that if I am elected I will have a lot to learn. I am eager to learn and I’m not afraid to take on these challenges and opportunities. Our county is facing some exciting possibilities and issues right now. I believe this county can be an example of how democracy works, with leaders who have open doors and listen to constituent concerns as well as ideas for solutions. I am at a place in my life where I have the energy, time and abilities to give this position the time and dedication that it requires.