Q & A with Commissioner candidates | SkyHiNews.com

Q & A with Commissioner candidates

Sky-Hi News Staff Report

Question: What is the most important issue in Grand County that the commissioners need to take action on, and if elected what would you do to create a solution?

Merrit Linke

Bio:

I am a Grand County native, born in Kremmling, graduated from MPHS, got a degree from the university of Wyoming in secondary education, taught chemistry, physics, and other science courses for 13 years, and coached basketball, football, and track. I met my wife of 28 years during this time and we have three kids, two daughters, both MPHS and UW graduates. We have one son who has just completed his second year of college and will continue to seek his degree. We live on the part of the ranch that was originally homesteaded by my great grandfather in 1883.

Answer:

There is no one issue that is significantly more important than any other issue. Furthermore, every issue is connected to other issues. For example, continuing to advocate, follow through and make sure that the water agreements are implemented as stated is connected to how we prioritize budget expenditures. Everything costs money or human resources and it is the commissioners mission to prioritize based on what is best for Grand county. Saying “No” to an expenditure request is often the easy thing to do – it’s much harder to see the long term effect and to determine not only if it’s important, but if there are long term costs or savings. All that being said, the recurring issues that are at the forefront of many citizens minds are protecting our water, transportation, broadband access, economic sustainability, healthcare, including mental health, and fitting all that, and more, into a balanced budget.

We have accomplished much towards resolution of these issues, and will continue to do so, through constant evaluation, community input, research and in listening to our “boots on the ground” staff who have first hand experience with these issues. A decision is then made with the best information available and we move forward.

Rich Cimino

Bio:

I’m seeking your vote as the Republican candidate from District 1. I served in the Air Force for over 21 years. As an Air Force Officer I managed roads, buildings, water resources, safety and security and all types of government services. I have three College Degrees, and I currently have two businesses in Grand County. I am a member of Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, and the American Legion. I know I can get the County back on track and instill a culture of integrity and excellence. I will be the strongest candidate to win the general election in November.

Answer:

The most important issue in Grand County Government is Budget Expertise. That is the prime responsibility of the commissioners: budget management. I spent most of my career managing budgets over $150 Million; I can help Grand County manage our budget which is under $40 Million. After building up a healthy budget surplus over several years, in 2014 the County spent more money than they brought in. The county was in deficit in 2014 and 2015, and is projected to be in deficit in 2016. The commissioners will try to balance the budget for 2017, which I applaud, but it will be close. If elected, I will make sure Grand County balances our budget in 2018; the first budget I will get to build. I will also build our surplus back to over $20 Million. A county with a large budget surplus is better able to respond to emergencies like natural disasters and unforeseen events. With a large budget surplus we will have money to buy water rights. With a large budget surplus we have money that we can invest to earn interest and keep our taxes low! Budget Expertise is the most important issue, and I am best prepared to manage our budget.

The county is also still recovering from the building department theft and past accounting errors. Although things have improved, I am prepared to bring a set of core values and an honor code instilled in me at the Air Force Academy to create a permanent ethical culture for the Grand County Government. The Air Force Core Values are: #1 Integrity First, #2 Service Before Self, and #3 Excellence In All We Do! I lived my life by these core values, and I will govern Grand County through these ethical habits.

My platform is: Balance the budget, improve our water, and help our workers. I will balance the budget and build back our surplus. I will use science to drive our water decisions, not politics! I will help our workers improve their skills, improve their access to transportation and housing, and find year-round work. I’ve compared Grand County to the other 64 counties in Colorado, and Grand County is great! I bring fresh eyes and a new perspective…I will help make Grand County even better!

Jane Tollett

Bio:

During my work life I have held management and leadership positions, both in business and now in government. My background is in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and I spent 25 years at Procter & Gamble. After our family moved here in 2007, I led the Grand County Water Information Network for seven years. As Executive Director, I made GCWIN a stronger non-profit by creating a county-wide water quality database, developed a watershed science education program for Grand County students, increased the water monitoring programs through grants and in-kind donations, and improved communications.

Answer:

Our most important issue right now is leadership – we have become reactive, not proactive. There are many problems needing solutions, but we will not solve them if we are mired down in anger, accusations, and antipathy. Ted Turner, founder of CNN, stated “Lead, follow or get out of the way”. Too many people are trying to stop us from moving forward by focusing only on the past. We must re-establish the County mission – government should lead and inspire people, and be capable of more than administering services. As Commissioners and leaders, we need to be creating a vision for the County, and using the expertise and desires of our citizens to help us in that creation. We all live here together. Once we have that vision, we then develop the plan to get there. By doing this, we will need to work together as a community to set priorities. The process will bring us together and help us define how we want to shape our community for the future. We need to put the last few years behind us. The budget is getting balanced, key management roles in the County are being filled, and through it all, our County employees have done a stellar job of providing services, making budget cuts, and finding ways to improve their work processes. If elected I can continue to provide the positive leadership I have been providing for the past six months. I will be honest and continue to make the tough decisions. I will look ahead to the future and listen to your concerns about it. I will be a good steward of our environment and continue to work to make Grand County a place we are even more proud of. It is time to move Grand County forward.

Tom Weydert

Bio:

My wife Kathy and I have been married for 40 years. We have three children and five grandchildren. I received my degree from the University of Denver in real estate and construction management. We moved to Grand Lake in 1987, built and operated Grand Lake Lanes for 14 years. When we sold in 2001, I began working as an appraiser in the Assessor’s office. I was elected as county Assessor in 2006. My experience being the county assessor for the past 10 years, serving on the Grand Lake Town Board has given me the skills required to be an effective Commissioner.

Answer:

I feel strongly that the County has been going in the wrong direction for some time now and a change in leadership is necessary. I am deeply troubled by the lack of communication, the erosion of the public’s trust and the lack of respect given to the citizens of Grand County. Communication starts with respect and open discussion. Discussion of public business between two commissioners outside of a scheduled public meeting is NEVER appropriate. The sunshine law restricts private meetings, emails, or any other means of communication where decisions are being made or discussed WITHOUT transparency. A good example of this is the direction (or non-direction), concerning the county’s investment policies being discussed between the county attorney, and commissioners Linke and Tollett. It is obvious from listening to the discussion at the March 22 meeting, that Linke and Tollett had prior discussions with the county attorney and had not included commissioner Manguso in those discussions. When elected, all meetings will be public, no more closed door meetings.

We must re-establish the public trust and to unite our communities. As commissioner I intend to seek solutions from everyone; elected officials, appointed department heads, employees AND most importantly the public we serve. Following the theft from the building department, new policies were put into place to have better control over the county’s funds. The recommendation was to strengthen internal controls and establish DAILY deposits. Already, there have been intentional “lapses” to this new policy that could open the door for another financial fiasco.

Respect comes from having integrity. Integrity is important for politicians because they are chosen, appointed, or elected to serve society. In order to be able to serve, politicians are given power in their positions to make, execute, or control policy. They have the power to influence something or someone. However, there is a great risk that this power will not be used by politicians to serve society, but rather to serve themselves. Grand County knows THIS all too well. We need to regroup as a county and move forward. I am honest, have strong moral principles, and hold myself to the highest ethical standards. I will treat each person with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Chas McConnell

Bio:

My name is Chas McConnell, and I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful county for 36 years. I arrived with only a college diploma, my work ethic and $58 in my pocket. I met my beautiful wife Ann here, and we have been married for 25 years. We have raised two great kids in Grand County. Lucas is enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder studying Aerospace Engineering, and Kaitlin is an honor role student at Middle Park High School. I started McConnell Printing Company in Winter Park in 1989.

Answer:

Restoring the trust of the citizens. Our county is in a crisis and we are in desperate need of strong leadership. We need to reevaluate the current policies to identify and create efficiencies. We must ensure that our internal controls are effective and more importantly followed. We must rebuild this trust of the community through transparency, honesty and integrity and most importantly respect.

How will this respect be regained? Only with strong leadership. One example of the current county dysfunction and lack of leadership is the un-invested cash reserves of the county. The current commissioners are at an impasse with the county treasurer in investing your funds. Investing the cash reserves of the county has generated $400,000 per year in interest income or $10 million during the term of our Treasurer.

After being accused that the Treasurer was doing something illegal by the county attorney at the direction of the Commissioners back in March, the Treasurer stopped investing these funds. In an effort to resolve the impasse, the Treasurer drafted a resolution to abide by all state statutes when investing the funds of the county. The resolution ratifies and restates all existing resolutions dating back to 1987. At this time, the Commissioners have yet to address the issue costing the citizens almost $40,000 in lost revenue since March. It is the complete lack of leadership that is costing you, the taxpayers, money everyday, with no end in sight.

I have a proven record of researching information, identifying problems and seeking solutions.

In 2007, I discovered that the county had been making an accounting error in the way they were calculating school impact fees collected from developers. As a result, an additional $1 million dollars in school impact fees were collected on behalf of the East Grand School District. After learning of the embezzlement in the Building Department, I personally spent more than 1000 hours reviewing documents and identifying malfeasance in our county government. With the help of a group of concerned citizens, I discovered gross mismanagement, lack of internal controls, and a lack of transparency. As a result of our efforts, Commissioners adopted many new policies that mandate accountability. But the work isn’t done. I have done my homework and on day one will be ready to lead, to ask the right questions and understand the impact of the decisions being made.

Andy Miller

Bio:

I am 40-year county resident with a BA from Michigan State. I enjoyed a professional career in local journalism, elementary teaching, directing child care centers, directing two local non-profits, and was a past-member of the GC Housing Authority. I am currently a Fraser Town Trustee. I founded M3 Property Service 16 years ago and have built many public and private projects. I have two grown sons, Forest – Navy vet and Engineering Student CSU, and Skyler who operates our M3 branch in Steamboat. Local projects include building the Broome Hut and High Lonesome Hut, the Hot Sulphur Pedestrian Bridge and many local trails.

Answer:

We need to resolve dysfunction as quickly as possible so we can return to effective governance. Colorado’s economy is healthy; we all know these growth periods constitute brief times of opportunity for county citizens. We need to quickly take advantage of this period of growth. Economic development opportunities abound for our county containing so many natural wonders yet located close to Denver. We can grow the part of our economy which will provide better paying, year-round jobs. We can enhance our bread and butter industry, tourism. We must also protect our unique and wonderful way of life. We too often let opportunities pass us by as we argue over issues largely unrelated to the county’s actual challenges. I believe I can build coalitions to realize a stronger county-wide community.

A few specific projects stand out. As we steadily pare back the county budget, some negative economic effects are being felt. For instance, current fees to dispose of trash locally are in excess of $100 per ton. The Eagle County “Waste Campus” – where you can recycle, dump trash and hand-off hazardous waste items including electronics and batteries – is only 40 miles from Kremmling and 70 miles from Granby. Dump fees there are less than half our cost. Our trash is hauled, at tremendous environmental costs, 110 miles one way to be dumped on the eastern slope. The Eagle County operation breaks even. We may be saving money on property taxes, but we lose more than this in real, every-day costs. The Commissioners across the board approach to budget reduction over-simplifies a process which should be detail oriented. Many relatively small and difficult decisions need to be reached as county services are examined. To do any less does a dis-service to professionals at every employment level in the Administration Building.

I believe we need to complete a wage survey to examine salaries. It is apparent lower level employees are in desperate need of salary increases, and there is fat at the upper levels. For instance, a road and bridge heavy equipment operator starts with a good benefit package but makes only $15 per hour while a quarter million dollars in cost is spent annually for two county attorneys.

Personnel policies must immediately be changed to disallow an employee to serve under the supervision of a relative. Nepotism policies must also be followed in principal by disallowing the hiring of staff based on personal relationships to prevent the building of fiefdoms.


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