RBC I Perry Will of New Castle, Colorado, is running as the Republican incumbent for Colorado House District 57 this election. He faces Colin Wilhelm of Glenwood Springs for the district encompassing Garfield, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties.
Will has served the district since February 2019, after being appointed by a Republican vacancy committee to fill the seat formerly occupied by state Sen. Bob Rankin.
“The district’s greatest strengths are the people. I love representing House District 57, I love the people of Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties. My entire career has been in public service and this is an extension of it,” Will said. Adding that he brings a rural perspective to the State House.
“The main thing we have is just good, salt of the earth people that live in these districts, who love our state, love where we live and love the resources around us and enjoying those. I want to maintain our heritage and our way of life. It’s hard to do because I will tell you that it’s an urban dominated legislature down there,” he said.
Even with said urban/rural divide, Will emphasized the importance of bipartisanship in effective legislating.
“I represent everyone in House District 57, everyone. Some people think that, maybe because they’re a Republican or Democrat, they act like they’re representing the Democrats in their district, or representing the Republicans in their district. That’s not what we’re there to do, we’re there to represent everyone, and I feel strongly about that.” He added, “Divisiveness doesn’t help anyone, obviously I’ve worked with Democrats on bills and vice versa. We try to be bipartisan on that stuff. You’ve gotta reach across the aisle, you know? We’re working for the people of Colorado,” said Will.
As far as legislative priorities, Representative Will is very much focused on healthcare access and affordability.
“Well, I think number one is affordable healthcare and the pandemic has brought that on of course, and is really showing the need for that.”
He also spoke about some of the healthcare related legislation he has either actively worked on or supported up to this point, including a bill for easier health insurance enrollment, a reinsurance program, and a bill for covering colorectal cancer screenings at a younger age.
“I talk to a lot of people in my house district here who just flat tell me, ‘we can’t afford to be covered.’ That tugs at your heart strings, you want people to have healthcare and health care coverage, so we need something,” he said, and also mentioned that he does not support universal coverage because he doesn’t know how it would be funded.
“There’s not an end all solution to it, it’s just, we’ve gotta take a bite of the apple at a time, keep working and keep moving forward and keeping our healthcare costs down. That’s huge.”
“I’d say we’re making headway. It’s there a magic silver bullet? No, there’s not, but we just keep pecking away at it and I think we can make healthcare affordable.”
Another major priority for Representative Will is “getting the economy moving again” after COVID-19 shutdowns, describing his ideal approach as “smart and strategic.”
“I think there’s been too many executive orders, to just blanket the state with these executive orders concerning the pandemic, I mean, you take Rio Blanco County, they’re under the same restrictions as Denver county. We need local control, and that means our local health departments, our local elected officials need control of that, because there’s really no reason to shut down an entire economy for a county that has zero cases of COVID.” (Rio Blanco County has had 23 cases of COVID.)
Will reiterated the emphasis on local control when talking about mask mandates.
“If your statistics and your incident rate shows that you need to do that, and it’s truly gonna control the virus then absolutely. But if you’re on the eastern plains of Colorado and some of those towns that have no cases, it doesn’t make sense. So yes, I’m saying go to local control. Let the local elected officials make those determinations,” he said.
Will sees the local control as part of the strategic effort to assist the economic recovery.
“That’s a real simple answer. Get the economy moving again and that would create the jobs. Through the CARES Act money that’s been great and really helped some people out with unemployment, but that can’t go on forever, and you know, how do we pay for that? Those trillions of dollars, that’s tough to pay back, and the State’s in the same boat. So the CARES act money was great in helping people with unemployment, but the big thing is [to] get our economy going again,” said Will.
He also recognizes some new opportunities for growth in the district that he says have actually been brought to attention by the pandemic.
“People have shown they can work from home. So remote working, I think that could be a real boon to our economy, especially rural Colorado. People would like to live here and recreate here, and the amenities we have…it’s a beautiful state and I think we could attract people that want to live and raise a family.” said Will, adding that the statewide push to improve broadband access goes hand-in-hand with that kind of potential new economic development.
For jobs in the district that have already been lost, Will says there are other strategies that could be effective, like retraining displaced workers, continuing development of fossil fuel resources, and even adding new jobs in renewable energy.
In discussing transitions to renewable energy, Will was clear that his concept of being “smart and strategic” should still apply. Moving forward he advocates for both recovering old jobs, and creating new ones.
“It’s a combination of both, I’d love to get those jobs back, but also we’ve gotta transition. You’d have to have your head buried in the sand if you don’t think we’re transitioning, but we can’t do it all at once like some would like, it’s just not feasible.”
“We can’t just cut off communities and shut down jobs because of the carbon footprint or whatever. We have to approach it realistically,” he added.
Representative Perry Will had more to say about preserving water, controlling healthcare costs and more. You can listen to the full interview in our podcast feed at soundcloud.com/heraldtimes1885
Special to The Herald Times