In unofficial final results, Republican Joel “Joe” Stevenson won the race for Montezuma County Commissioner District 3 by a margin of 57% to 43% over Unaffiliated candidate Rebecca Samulski.
Stevenson attracted 8,554 votes, while Samulski earned 6,340 votes, according to the county elections department.
Stevenson is a lifelong resident of the county and is employed as a brand inspector for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. He campaigned for ranching and farming, protecting water rights, and restarting the local economy, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would like the community to know I am looking forward to serving them, our citizens will always have a voice through me,” Stevenson said. “My first priority will be focusing on getting our small businesses fully opened and get our economy moving again.”
He has been researching issues the board of county commissioners are working on.
“If elected, I will introduce myself to those county employees that I don’t know to let them know I will always be available to discuss any concerns they may have,” Stevenson said.
Republican Kent Lindsay won the County Commissioner District 2 position, with 11,316 votes cast. He was unopposed in the general election. Lindsay served two terms as commissioner from 1997-2005. He serves on the Empire Electric Association board and was a volunteer firefighter.
Republican Matthew Margeson was elected for 22nd Judicial District Attorney. He had 11,292 votes and ran unopposed. Margeson has been a prosecutor with the office, which serves Montezuma and Dolores counties, since 2014. In 2017, he was promoted to assistant DA.
High turnout for electionVoter turnout was 84.6%, the largest in recent memory, said Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell.
Voters cast 15,551 ballots out of the 18,374 ballots sent out to active registered voters.
In the 2016 presidential general election, turnout was 80% – 15,200 ballots sent and 12,300 counted. In Colorado, ballots are sent to all active registered voters. Inactive voters aren’t automatically mailed a ballot.
A voter is considered active if they’ve voted in the most recent elections or updated their address or other registration information. Inactive voters are still able to vote, they just aren’t automatically mailed a ballot.
About the candidatesStevenson served on the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association board, the Montezuma County Fair board and is on the county planning board. He supports Country of Origin Labeling for agricultural products.
“Our consumers need to be informed of where their food is coming from,” he said.
To trigger economic development, Stevenson suggests incentives such as waiving some startup fees to allow growth for new businesses.
He wants to explore expanding the airport for air freight services, which could attract larger companies and jobs.
“Right now, our biggest challenge is getting this economy back up and running,” he said.
Stevenson said it was unfair that small businesses closed under Gov. Jared Polis’ pandemic orders while big-box corporate stores remained open.
He said he would fight to keep water from going outside the area, and he wants to see about storing more water in McPhee Reservoir.
On logging, Stevenson wants more salvage logging in beetle kill and wildfire burn areas.
“There is a lot of dead standing timber in our mountains that need to be taken care of,” he said. “Before cutting green trees, they ought to work on the dead standing.”
Stevenson has pledged support for Paths to Mesa Verde, a 17-mile recreation trail from Cortez to Mancos. The county was awarded a $5.8 million federal grant for construction of the Mancos to Mesa Verde National Park portion of the trail.
“Tourism is the largest income for most of our businesses,” Stevenson said in a Facebook post. “We are in direct competition with Moab and Durango, and I believe this path would draw more to the area thus increasing revenue for our businesses.”
He wants a working relationship with each town and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Montezuma County does not collect a sales tax. There has been discussion in recent years to ask voters for a 1% sales tax.
Stevenson said the only way he would support a county sales tax would be if there were also some tax relief for business and property owners.
“I would support placing this issue on the ballot, as the final decision would be that of the community we represent,” he said.
On governance, Stevenson said he will keep an open mind.
“I will ensure that I am informed and have all the facts prior to making any decision that would affect our county as a whole. And most importantly, I will use common sense in all decisions.”
According to the Colorado Secretary of State, Stevenson reported $6,715 in campaign contributions.
Lindsay was a fire fighter and served on the board for Cortez Fire Protection District. He also has owned and operated the Rio Grande Café on Main Street Cortez for 40 years.
“I’ve been involved in the community and understand the issues and challenges,” Lindsay said.
A lot of them are the same from 20 years ago, Lindsay said. His priorities include protecting water rights and agricultural values, public safety, economic development and practical land use.
“I take a commonsense approach to decision-making,” Lindsay said. “I’ve got some ideas, will listen to the public and will work with the other commissioners and local towns.”
Margeson has a law degree from University of Denver, and a bachelor’s in computer engineering from University of Michigan. He was in private practice for seven years in the Denver area.
My primary goal is to make sure criminal cases are prosecuted appropriately,” Margeson said. “I also want to maintain a professional office with the people I work with, so we can continue to do good work for the community.”
He touts his experience handling a variety of cases his relationship will local law enforcement, court staff and criminal justice professionals.
“I know them and have gained their trust to appropriately handle the cases brought to us. I feel that puts me in a good position for the job,” Margeson said.
Balancing appropriate punishment and rehabilitative services is a key responsibility for the DA office, he said.
“Our job is to first consider community safety and the victim, and also to prevent an offender from re-entering the criminal justice system.”
Samulski grew up in Montezuma County and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Fort Lewis College and a master’s in political science from the University of Denver. She worked on planning projects for Cortez and Mancos and founded the Dolores Watershed Resilient Forest collaborative.
She did not regret throwing her hat into the ring.
“I’m so grateful for all the support, and I’ll keep doing whatever I can for our community,” she said.
According to the Secretary of State, she raised $32,445 in campaign contributions.
She plans to donate campaign funds to Montezuma Land Conservancy, School Community Youth Coalition, and The Bridge shelter.