HomeNews Meet the candIdates for districts 1 & 2 gunnison county commissioners
Meet the candIdates for districts 1 & 2 gunnison county commissioners
Written by CB Staff
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Between now and the end of October, the Crested Butte News will be asking the six candidates for Gunnison County Commissioner questions related to issues in the community. We have requested they keep their answers short. If you have any specific question you’d like to see the six candidates address, email it to
and we will consider posing the query to the politicos. Remember, all qualified county voters get to cast a ballot for one candidate in each district. Also...everyone is invited to the Crested Butte News Candidates Forum being held this year on Thursday, October 18 at 6 o’clock at the Center for the Arts. Everyone is welcome.
Stu Ferguson district 1 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. It’s All About Our Economy: I will seek to strengthen existing industries—tourism, education and ranching—through seamless integration of TA, RTA, business and community for growth. We must work to return ranching to a profitable, sustainable agri-business, and we need to develop new strategies for collaboration with WSCU for increased enrollment. We can pursue responsible development of mineral, geothermal, hydro, and forest resources through a balanced regulatory approach to offset loss of coal revenues. I will revive the Economic Development Corporation through inclusive participation, a funding solution, and a balanced approach to community needs. We need economic diversity with local production of products for local consumption and for “export.” We need quality middle class jobs for locals and new residents alike. My path to the future relies on my long history of using collaboration. I make sure all voices are heard and understood. We can find the best ideas when we listen to all perspectives. I encourage give and take; to seek compromise for long lasting solutions. Intimidation and bullying are not acceptable strategies. Civil discourse is the foundation for strong solutions.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? One path leads us to the many forms of recreation that rely on our waterways for both personal enjoyment and tourism businesses. Another path leads us to our second home industry. For some, the private ownership of beautiful streams with peaceful scenes, prime fishing, and relaxation are major factors in choosing Gunnison County. Both paths are cited as important elements in our economy. Conflict may seem inevitable. Our law is clear: private property is clearly defined and civil trespass is the assigned remedy. I believe that the likelihood of changing the law is remote. The cost of change in terms of dollars and political capital is simply too great. A real, attainable solution is to adopt the model used successfully elsewhere in Colorado. The Arkansas River and the Colorado River both enjoy some of the strongest river and stream recreation in the country. They are successful because people on the two paths work together to build respect for one another, to reach compromise, and to cooperate. This is the solution we must seek.
Q: iPhone, Droid, cell phone, rotary dial? The diversity of products available to the consumer today reflects the diversity of people in Gunnison County. We certainly are not plain vanilla; we have a range of values and needs so each must choose the product that best fits our situation.
Q: Nickname? Stu
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? Crested Butte Arts Festival
Steve Schechter district 1 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. I will pull the Carbon Policy Task Force Final Report and Recommendations, which was presented to the BOCC in January 2011 and available on the county website, out of the dustbin and bring it back to light. The report, which took a year to research and write by a group of BOCC-appointed citizens with a “diversity of experience, expertise, and perspective,” is a blueprint aimed at energy use and conservation. Since its introduction, the policy paper has been mostly ignored and forgotten. This oversight is unfortunate since energy prices continue to rise, affecting our local tourism economy, family finances, and business income. I commend the county for instituting high energy efficiency standards in new county buildings and remodels. These efficiencies have not made their way to public sphere. In my travels around the county talking to people door-to-door, I am surprised at how many homes could use weather stripping and better windows. Even small upgrades save families on their winter heating bills. This is part of my platform; therefore, my first act as commissioner will be to converse with the new board on how we can move forward on implementation of the Carbon Policy Task Force recommendations.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? This is a complex problem with no simple solution. The landowners along rivers have property rights, but the public also has a constitutional right to open waterways for their enjoyment. In 2010 Gunnison County commercial river outfitters had a direct impact of $2 million in the valley’s economy. Matt Brown, co-owner of Scenic River Tours, says, “Colorado has more outfitters and river customers than any state in the union, yet river access is still unsettled.” It is time for the Colorado legislature to settle this access issue by finding a balance of property rights and the public’s right to river access. Our state derives too much income from water recreation and general aesthetics for this issue to remain so uncertain. The county should work with the legislature towards a solution.
Q: iPhone, Droid, cell phone, rotary dial? I love my Droid, but I use push button at home where there is no other service.
Q: Nickname? Schecky.
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? Vinotok: homegrown and community centered.
Paula Swenson district 1 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. A new project in the upcoming year would mean that another gets pushed onto the back burner, such as the economic development effort. I have been spearheading this effort for nearly two years and we are now at a critical tipping point in our process and goals. For nearly 30 years of being in business, I know that we, as a community, tend to lose our steam after a couple of years and fall back into our usual ruts. I need to work diligently this next year to keep all of the players at the table and continue to help facilitate conversations to break down our barriers and work collectively to grow our economy. By facilitating a meeting last winter between CBMR and WSCU, I was able to assist in growing relations between our two major economic drivers in this valley. From that meeting, joint marketing and promotional efforts between the two have started and continue to grow. I now sit as an advisory member of the TA board in addition to the Gunnison Chamber board and the RTA; this was a consensus by the BOCC so that I can assist in breaking down the communication barriers and in building stronger community marketing efforts with all of the needed partners. “Setting the table” is another aspect of economic development that is crucial for growing our economy. We need to ensure that we have good infrastructure, including transportation and telecommunications along with regulations that not only protect our environment, but that do not impede business. We are now identifying those areas in our regulations (county and municipalities) that do hinder business and next year is going to be crucial in finding balance for economic prosperity.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? This continues to be a volatile issue in our state. Water is the property of all of the citizens but the land it crosses in many instances is privately owned. “The right to float” is limited to being on the water. If a boater touches the bottom or banks, it is trespassing. Sometimes it is impossible to not be guilty of trespassing if an obstacle is in the river. I support boating on historically commercially run rivers and to find a way to allow for commercial operators to portage on banks to get around dangerous objects along with strengthening the trespassing laws to ensure that individuals do not take advantage of private property rights.
Q: iPhone, Droid, cell phone, rotary dial? Cell phone. With two sons in college, they got upgraded first; iPhone next year.
Q: Nickname? PJ
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? The Arts Festival, and this year was better than ever!
Jonathan Houck district 2 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. I will offer continued leadership in developing a team of advocates from Gunnison County to work with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to make the Outdoor Discovery Center a reality. The Outdoor Discovery Center would be located on the eastern edge of Gunnison on nine donated acres that is adjacent to 458 acres of state land that includes a stretch of Tomichi Creek and is the newest State Wildlife Area. The Outdoor Discovery Center is part of a proposed campus that would include a new local area CPW office and potentially other land management agencies including the USFS and the BLM. The state has already invested $1.5 million in the planning process. WSCU is heavily supporting the project as well and sees it as an asset to support academic studies including Professional Land and Resource Management, Environmental Studies and Recreation. As Gunnison mayor, I have been having meetings and conversations with the CPW director to be more proactive in making this possibility a reality. If we want to see this happen we need to actively build a coalition of interested parties. In the latest Mayor/Managers meeting (a monthly gathering of leadership from Gunnison County including commissioners, mayors, town managers, WSCU, CBMR, CFGV, UGRWCD, etc.) Dr. Jay Helman updated us on meetings in D.C. with Senator Bennet’s staff and their interest in how federal agencies can be part of this campus concept. Simply stated, we need the state to make the first move and get the new local office started. With movement on the ground we can begin to get some more energy around the Outdoor Discovery Center. I have been working on this as mayor and will take that knowledge and keep us moving toward making this a reality as a commissioner.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? Yes, because our state constitution says that navigable waterways are open to the public. That does not mean private property rights should be ignored, but we need to resolve this issue at the state level. Commercial rafting pumps millions into our local and state economy and Colorado is the number one whitewater rafting state with a half-million rafters annually.
Q: Nickname? In college it was “Johnny Froth” due to my barista skills working at the Bean in Gunnison.
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? Fall is my favorite season, so Vinotok, and although it is not a festival, I love polka dancing at the Eldo on Memorial Day.
Polly Oberosler district 2 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. In my view, the “something new” is to back up a bit and lay down some groundwork that is key to our future. Our local economic efforts are scattered and the procedures to get anything done are frequently prohibitive, leaving businesses and taxpayers frustrated and often holding the bag. The Board of County Commissioners has been pulled into more of a regulatory stance and I feel it can offer much more to the communities. I will gather folks from businesses, WSCU, agriculture, the environmental community, extraction companies and CBMR and see what we can do to have a deeper appreciation and understanding for each other. Secondly, I think we collectively need to determine just what it is we want to be, identify where we want to go and get on with it. We have so much to offer, but it is a hard sell when we are all thinking and marketing differently. What brought many of us here beyond the education and recreational opportunities was the quality of the people and their ability to live, work and recreate side-by-side no matter their cultural background or financial means. We operated on the premise that what was good for the whole of Gunnison County was good for all. We have drifted away from that thinking and are all spinning our own cloth without thought of the dress we intend to make.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? The recent measure that nearly got on the ballot this year to make “Colorado water public” appears to be more about development than boating, so I can’t agree with that at this time. We have to be cognizant of the fact that wasteful cities want mountain water and are getting creative in their legislative language to get it. I do believe in commercial use and the “right to float” on waters where conflict is minimal, but I think that it is something that should be worked out on a case by case basis because blanket policy may not be in the best interest of anyone. In Colorado we have always understood that floating was fine, but disembarking was not, and in fairness to land owners that is probably the best way to keep it. The unintended consequences of creating policy could come back to bite us all. However, we can be creative in our relationships to ensure the rafting industry remains a viable economic contributor.
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? Flauschink of course—what else would a “has been” say?
Warren Wilcox, district 2 candidate
Q: Pick your topic. Give us real details of something new that you hope to accomplish (or start) as a county commissioner in the next year. I feel we need to address real debt reduction and take on no new capital projects until the economy improves. Current county spending should be limited to maintaining all health and safety services and only critically necessary projects should be considered until the economy improves. Over the past few years, Gunnison County has remodeled, built, and acquired several new building projects that have utilized creative financing. These projects have been done without visibly raising taxes, paid for from sales tax revenue, but what happens if sales tax receipts are much less than projected? We still have the debt and it needs to be paid, so other resources would be tapped that might be utilized for other programs. In a declining economy, even with conservative projections, we may be facing fiscal difficulty like many other government entities are currently experiencing. I believe that all county expenditures need to be examined critically and all budget items reviewed. We cannot ignore the financial state of the world around us. We know that the largest taxpayers in Gunnison County are the coal mines in the North Fork Valley. It is projected that the coal mines will soon deplete the resource in Gunnison County and will be moving the operations into Delta County. Natural gas may create a new revenue stream that could offer some amount of replacement revenue. Unless we can develop a new source of revenue in the next few years we will have our own fiscal cliff. Hopefully, the world economy will improve, but even if it does it may not benefit our local economy. It is time to question every proposed expenditure so we don’t find our county government in a position similar to that of our hospital. I would be only one of three commissioners, and would bring this issue forward.
Q: A reader wants to know if you feel that the rivers in the state of Colorado should be open to all forms of recreation. Should we have the right to float through private property? It does not matter how I feel. Our country is governed by the “Rule of Law.” I have been advised that there is no legal right to float in Colorado. If users trespass on private property, it is a civil offense. My opinion is that any party wishing to trespass should attempt to gain permission from the property owner through agreements addressing liability and other issues or concerns.
Q: iPhone, Droid, cell phone, rotary dial? Cell phone for business, Droid for personal.
Q: Nickname? Nickname from junior high football was Willy, for Wilcox.
Q: Favorite Crested Butte festival? Favorite Crested Butte festival would be the Wildflower Festival.