Conversations with … Randy L. Baumgardner
September 22, 2008
Randy L. Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs is the Republican Colorado State House of Representatives District 57 candidate running against Todd Hagenbuch of Phippsburg. Baumgardner was born in Bedford, Ind. and raised on a dairy farm. Involved in agriculture throughout his life, Baumgardner has also worked for an industrial company, worked part-time for a sheriff’s department and attended Indiana University. He moved to Grand County in 1994. Both he and his wife Lori have worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation for 10-plus and 8-plus years respectively. The Baumgardners also own and operate a small business, Baumgardner Cattle Company, LLC. in Grand County. They have one son, Matthew James Baumgardner.
Q. What has been your campaign strategy this election?
A. My strategy has been and always will be that I am a voice of the people. I am not doing this for me, but for all of us in District 57. I will listen to everyone who contacts me, and we may not always agree, but I will do everything possible to represent the people in District 57. I could take the time to talk about myself but I really feel we need to get back to what the people need, not what is good for the politicians. Somehow we have become unconnected and aren’t getting what we are paying for. I see people liking this idea of having a workingman representing them. It is getting back to the way we started out ” we the people ” not we the government.
Q. What do you see as top challenges facing Grand County in the next decade?
A. Can we see very far into the future and guess with any great confidence what is going to be our greatest challenges? Water, growth, beetle kill.
I do see now that industry is a great asset and will be a positive force in our small towns ” just look at the pellet plants. I see the need to get jobs and businesses into the area. Those two pellet plants are a great example of how we can stimulate our small economy. How many jobs were created? These people have homes and buy food locally. They purchase fuel and their children will attend the public or private schools. So, I see a challenge for our whole area as being jobs, to keep small towns flourishing.
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Q. What solutions do you propose for dealing with the tremendous amount of beetle-kill wood in Grand County, specifically by way of funding for taking out trees for wildfire defense and by way of encouraging wood use?
A. Beetle kill is a huge issue in many areas but we cannot afford to let the government in Washington dictate how we manage our forests. They see green dollars while we stare at red and brown trees. We need to open up the National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands to any enterprise that can use this beetle kill as a product. I visited the pellet plant in Walden and was amazed at how fast they can turn these trees into premium fuel. This also stimulates the economy by putting people back to work. We have a second local pellet plant for loggers to haul to.
Loggers need fuel, lodging and food. Even if there is a fire, the pellet plants can use the logs that haven’t been burned up and turn them into usable fuel. Open up the forests, wave the fees, but hold the loggers to a clean-up standard. We need to stop holding our breaths waiting for our government to do something for us and instead do it for ourselves. We should get the trees harvested before they are no longer usable for building products or furniture. Or, get them cleared for a usable fuel for our homes.
Q. What past experience do you have on Colorado water issues?
A. Being a rancher throws me into water issues and gives me some experience. Over the past several years, I have participated in water meetings with County Commissioners, Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, rafters, ranchers and other concerned parties to try and find solutions to our water problems such as low flows, algae buildup and the quality of water. I have attended the Colorado Water Congress, and I am amazed how much there is to know about all the water issues.
Q. What do you plan to do to help defend West Slope water interests?
A. I am already trying to defend West Slope Water Interests. It has been my concern since I started ranching and trying to find out about river flows. We need to find a balance between those who need the water downstream, and those of us who need to use the water here. We have to look at all options available to us, whether it is conservation, storage and cooperation among everyone.
Q. Affordable and available health care is a great concern in Grand County. How do we make quality health care available in rural areas like Grand County and what can you do on the state level to help make health care services and coverage more affordable?
A. I would like to see more clinics work on a cash-only basis. Yes, we need insurance for catastrophic illness but wellness baby check-ups, shots, minor stitches, flu, colds, and minor illnesses could be handled in a clinic that works on a cash basis. I think this would force insurance companies to look at profit margins if they start to loose a bit of the market. My wife and I owned a home in Walden when she went into labor. We were an hour from the hospital. It may seem like an eternity to those in need, but we have an excellent group of people managing our emergency services. On occasion in the past, a C-Dot worker or State Trooper has escorted people to the hospital or to an ambulance on the way. Now we have had an occasional baby born on Rabbit Ears, but every year our services get better and better. Look at the new facility in Walden, we were at the ribbon cutting and it is a wonderful facility. It took time and some very dedicated individuals, but what an amazing accomplishment. I see our insurance companies care too much about money and not for our care. I would like to see more strong individuals take on the challenge of making a cash-only medical system flourish.
Q. The Sky-Hi Daily News recently did a series on conservation in Grand County. As more growth takes place in the high country, what are your views on protecting agriculture and preserving open space?
A. We need the open space for our economy. We rely on it for skiing, fishing, rafting, and tourism. We also need to protect a part for agriculture. Agriculture is extremely important. The people involved in this area, whether it is beef or produce, are the ones that raise our food. We have to preserve our open spaces while supporting our local businesses.
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