With ballots going out to area voters this week for the 2012 Republican primary election, KSJD Dryland Community Radio and the Cortez Journal have partnered together to provide election preview coverage for Montezuma County and the 22nd Judicial District.
Republican candidates for Montezuma County commissioner were asked a series of three questions created through the compilation of submissions from the community. The candidate’s answers to the questions were aired on KSJD’s Morning Zine program Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. What follows is a summary of the District 3 candidate’s responses to the questions.
Candidates for District 3 County Commissioner are Dewayne Findley and Casey McClellan.
How will you balance economic development initiatives with environmental protections considering the perspectives of agricultural producers, tourist interests and both urban and rural residents?
Findley, owner of Aspen Wall Wood in Dolores who served as a commissioner for Montezuma County from 2003-2006, said environmental concerns must be kept at the forefront of considerations of any economic development in the county but should not be the only factors involved in a decision.
“I don’t believe you can support economic development in the county without taking into consideration the environmental protections,” Findley said. “To do one without the other would be a negative for the community. The environment has to be one of the major considerations in economic development, but I don’t think that is the only consideration.”
The candidate said that economic development is a double-edged sword for the county. While necessary for growth and stability moving into the future, development tends to be accompanied by additional burdens for current taxpayers.
“I believe economic development in and of itself is difficult because you don’t want to impact the taxpayers and those monies as an incentive to bring in competition for current business owners just in the name of economic development,” he said. “However, we all recognize we need economic development in order to hopefully be able to keep our young people here after they graduate from high school or college so they can not only live here and enjoy our quality of life, but also be able to make a living while they are here.”
Findley summed up his response to the question by noting that full consideration of all issues is necessary when weighing future economic development in the county.
“I would reiterate that economic development without taking into account all the things that are impacted by that, would not be in the best interest of the citizens of Montezuma County,” said Findley. “I would say that’s probably a very good question.”
McClellan, owner of McStone Aggregates and Timberline Properties and former member of the Montezuma County Planning Commission, noted that not many projects in the county rise to the level of impact as to warrant environmental concern and focus in that particular area should remain on oil and gas development in the county.
“I don’t see a lot of proposals in the area requiring environmental protection measures,” McClellan said. “If anything, they would be focuses on oil, gas and C02 development. There are not a lot of things out there that I would be worried about.”
In terms of considering the impact of economic development and environmental protections on agricultural producers, McClellan said he believes most farmers and ranchers in the area are in favor of oil and gas development, as most occurs on private property and results in royalty payments to the property owner.
“Frankly, I would be surprised if a farmer or rancher didn’t want to lease minerals out,” McClellan said. “I would love to see every farm or ranch with an oil or CO2 well on it. That will allow farms and ranches to survive a whole lot longer than they would otherwise. I see (development) as a way the farms and ranches can last a lot longer.”
McClellan said he believes current land use codes eliminate issues with environmental protection versus economic development on public lands and that development should not pose a danger to tourism.
“I don’t see that as an impact to tourism,” McClellan said. “There are protections in the land use code that would prevent environmental carryover and there are areas in (the code) that cover air pollution and water pollution and noise and dust and things like that.”
How do you plan to serve the diversity of constituents and political perspectives throughout Montezuma County?
Findley noted his prior experience as a Montezuma County commissioner as proof he can listen carefully to the needs of all his constituents, regardless of political affiliation or support during the campaign.
“I believe the fact that I have served (as commissioner) gives me a little bit better background in answering this question,” Findley said. “What you realize as soon as you are elected to a public office is that you were not elected just to serve the people who voted for you when you are sworn in as a county commissioner. ... The fact that some people voted for the other guy can’t enter into your mind or perspective whenever you are representing all of Montezuma County.”
Findley said he believes his ability to listen and respond to constituents in an unbiased manner was one of his strong suits when he served as commissioner previously, and it is a skill he intends to bring to the office if elected this year.
“I actually think that one of my strong suits as a Montezuma County commissioner was that I was willing and very able to listen to all sides of an argument,” Findley said. “I never once as an elected official made a decision that put political expediency over what I thought were the best interests of Montezuma County.”
McClellan said he is rational in his decision making process and abilities and facts, not opinion, emotion or bias, will guide his decisions as a Montezuma County commissioner.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to see all sides,” McClellan said. “I am very conservative and I like facts and I believe that the decisions I would make would be based on facts and not emotions.”
Emotion tends to cloud reasoning, McClellan said.
“When someone wants to stop something, they throw a lot of emotional arguments at it,” he said. “Those arguments are rarely factual.”
The best interests of the county are the only consideration to weigh when making a decision on the board of county commissioners, McClellan said.
“The things I’m going to look at are is the proposal good for Montezuma County, does it bring jobs to the area, and does it protect property rights,” he said.”
Describe what you believe Montezuma County’s relationship should be with federal, state and tribal governments.
With a business background in timber and wood product sales, Findley said his experience has uniquely suited him for an understanding of cooperation with other government entities.
In regards to the federal government, Findley said the position of county commissioner allows for a degree of influence not available in other realms.
“I have had a business with the federal agencies for years,” Findley said. “I believe as a county commissioner you have a much greater opportunity to influence decisions made by the federal government.”
As a former member of the Colorado Transportation Planning Commission, Findley said he understands how the state government works and his time on the commission gave him valuable insight into state issues.
As for interaction between the county government and the Ute Mountain Ute tribal government, Findley said he has had a good working relationship with the tribe in the past and believes that can continue into the future, though cooperation between the two entities can be tricky.
“I know I had a good working relationship with the former tribal chairman, Manuel Hart,” Findley said. “The tribal government has greater access to the U.S. government and Congress and they don’t always have to come through the local elected officials.”
Overall, Findley said interaction between the local government and federal, state and tribal entities is necessary.
“I believe there are opportunities in all three of those fields to continue to work toward improving those opportunities,” he said.
Interaction between local elected officials and federal, state and tribal governments is essential for the continued success of Montezuma County, according to Casey McClellan.
“I feel strongly that Montezuma County should be interfacing with all of these entities with equal footing,” McClellan said. “I don’t really see this as something that Montezuma County doesn’t want to do, I think they have a lot of interest in doing that.”
McClellan said a good example of where cooperation between local government and federal and state government isn’t working is in public lands planning issues.
“Things are happening where it is obvious that these decisions aren’t being made locally,” McClellan said. “They are coming from the regional forest or the chief of the forest. I’ve been in meetings where the support to keep these areas multiple use and open to motorized vehicles has been overwhelming yet when the decision comes out it is quite the opposite. That’s a little frustrating.”
McClellan also pointed to route closures on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument as decisions that he believes have been made with little to no input from local government.
“It seemed like the board of county commissioners should have been involved in the decision to close these routes,” McClellan said. “The routes should stay open.”