Linke, Cimino to run for re-election in 2020
Though discussions about the 2020 election have centered on federal races, Grand County residents will also have to decide who they want to lead their local government.
County Commissioners Rich Cimino and Merrit Linke will both be running for re-election this November for county districts one and two, respectively. District one represents Winter Park and Fraser and district two represents Granby and Grand Lake.
“I think there are a lot of things that are in the works that need to be followed through on and implemented, and there’s a lot of transition in the county,” Linke said.
Cimino echoed that sentiment, citing the county’s need for new buildings as one of the ongoing projects he’d like to continue working on. The Sky-Hi News sat down with the two commissioners to talk about why they are running and their goals for the county.
Though Cimino has only been a county commissioner since 2016, he feels the county has made significant progress and he’d like to continue building on that trend.
“I think that we’ve really cracked the code on how to leverage what the state can provide, since these programs are kind of first come, first serve and only counties that are organized and have been applying … get the grant or program to work for their counties,” Cimino said. “I want Grand County to be first among the 64 counties of Colorado.”
While in office, Cimino has represented Grand County at the state legislature and partnered with Counties and Commissioners Acting Together and Colorado Counties Inc. to get more resources locally.
He has also focused on lowering health care costs in the county through the statewide reinsurance program and partnering with Peak Health Alliance, as well as addressing affordable housing and the county’s building needs.
“(There) are ways to help the county that don’t take county dollars,” Cimino said. “I think that besides mission, any surplus monies, we can’t ignore our buildings, so if surplus dollars are going to buildings, I’m pretty excited that for housing and health care, we can leverage the state.”
As a representative, Cimino said he always tries to keep issues affecting the east end of the county top-of-mind in board discussions, such as by supporting the Lift expansion and sharing costs for road projects.
He hopes to continue to do so moving forward, especially when it comes to housing. Cimino said he’s interested in evolving the county’s current housing authority to be multi-jurisdictional.
“We’re in very preliminary talks,” he said. “My three goals, if I get a second term, will continue to be health care because we’re not done there, it will continue to be affordable housing and county buildings and infrastructure.”
Linke started his time as a county commissioner in 2013 as the only member new to the board and no plans to make a career out of it, he said. However, Linke found he enjoys the problem solving aspect of the job.
“There are a lot of situations where you can find a balance of what makes people happy, or is at least acceptable, and I like that and finding solutions to problems,” he said.
During his time as commissioner, Linke has worked on a number of projects, including implementing the 1A sales tax for open lands, rivers and trails projects, but has focused a lot on finding solutions to the county’s water issues.
“(The Front Range) has every right to divert under Colorado water law, … but at the same time there are some damages or impacts,” he said. “We have had some good partnerships with our diverters, like Denver Water and Northern Water.”
Another of his accomplishments has been to build up the county’s reserves. Linke said when he started as a commissioner, the county was still experiencing slowed revenues from the recession and had to dip into reserves for expenses.
Since then, the county has had a balanced budget or even a surplus for the past four years and the reserves are in “good shape.”
Linke attributes that in part to the board’s good relationships with one another, as well as their willingness to challenge one another.
“We have a good board because we don’t always agree, but we don’t always disagree either, which I think is healthy,” he said. “It’s very independent voices and we all have our strengths and divvy up responsibilities.”
When it comes to his philosophy on representing his constituents’ interests, Linke said he looks for common ground solutions, but always tries to let the towns’ retain their individual characters.
“We try to find what’s best for everybody, but still … respect their decisions,” he said.
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A project that the Grand Fire Protection District has planned for since 2004 could begin soon.