RBC I On Saturday, Republican delegates from across the county will gather in Rangely to vote on which or if both of the candidates for county commissioner from District 3 will gain access to the primary ballot in June.
Incumbent Commissioner Jeff Eskelson will be seeking re-election and has been challenged by former Sheriff Si Woodruff.
Eskelson says he’s hoping to continue serving the county as commissioner to finish what the board has been working towards.
“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,” Eskelson said. “We, as a team, along with our great county employees have developed and implemented unprecedented strategies solving rural broadband issues. 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,” he said. “Put simply, I want to finish what we’ve started.”
Eskelson credits the cohesiveness and hard work of the current board for the success they’ve seen.
“As a team, we have better, more in-depth state and federal representation than at any time in the county’s history,” he said. “We have sought and acquired more than $10.8 million in additional project funding just from the (state) Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) alone. These are dollars that would not have been introduced to this county without diligence, great external relationships and hard work.”
Eskelson also gives credit to partnerships with the private sector.
“We have completed a land use rewrite from top to bottom,” he said. “During this process, WPX Energy was a partner both 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.
“And we are not just statewide but nationwide leaders in solving the rural broadband issues, as well as developing leading edge economic development strategies,” he said.
Eskelson said he is excited about what the future may hold for Rio Blanco County, and he believes that the broadband project will play a large role in county growth.
“I see continued growth of our non-petroleum job base not only with up-to-date broadband, but with increased outdoor recreation opportunities as well as creating an identity attracting small, more lively manufacturing companies to move here and capitalize on the ready-made branding we have for all things outdoors.
“If we have a (federal) administration change leans more to the right, I think we will be better prepared to leverage sustainable opportunities and relationships with the oil, gas and coal industries,” he said.
Eskelson hopes to put the benefits of an improved local economy to work.
“I believe in the revenue working for the constituents but the financial management will be the same it always has—save and spend on capital projects when we have the money,” he said.
In addition to serving a previous term as county commissioner Eskelson believes his private sector work qualifies him to continue on in his current role.
“My financial management and project management skills have been utilized extensively for Rio Blanco County during my first term,” he said. “These skills are primarily associated with capital projects and their management techniques and methodologies. My communication skills outside the county have allowed the development of tremendously influential and beneficial relationships at all levels to the net positive benefit to our constituents.
“The personnel and business skills I spent over 20 years acquiring are invaluable as a county commissioner.”
However, he does admit that his communication skills within the county could use some improvement.
“If there is one major thing I’d change if re-elected, it is communication on the ground with the constituents,” he said. “I plainly did not do a very good job of getting out and talking to constituents one on one, and I see that was a large mistake on my part.”
In order to appear on the primary ballot, Eskelson will need to receive a minimum of 17 of the 55 delegate votes available at Saturday’s County Assembly.