Pitkin County commissioner candidates Q&A: How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the pandemic? | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County commissioner candidates Q&A: How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the pandemic?

Staff report
Pitkin County commissioner candidates 2020

pitkin county race

The Aspen Times published a five-day series with the five candidates for Pitkin County commissioner. Here are the topics addressed:

Monday: What are your views on growth in Pitkin County and should it be slowed, increased or stay the same and should house sizes be capped?

Tuesday: What, if anything, should be done to increase affordable housing in Pitkin County? Do you think APCHA is being run and administered properly and what would you like to see done differently?

Wednesday: Do you support efforts to widen the runway to accommodate larger airplanes? What is the most important issue to consider in planning the new airport?

Thursday: How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you contribute to on-going efforts to counter the effects of the pandemic if elected?

Friday: What is the gravest and most important issue facing Pitkin County today?

For more on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.

Editor’s note: This series is the launch of our 2020 election coverage for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. This is day four of a five-day Q&A with the five Pitkin County commissioner candidates. For more information on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.

There are five candidates running for three Pitkin County commissioner seats.

Current Board Chairman Steve Child, a Capitol Creek rancher, is running for his third term for District 4. Former Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board member Chris Council, a Snowmass Village resident and local photographer, is running against Child.

In District 5, Francie Jacober, a retired teacher and Prince Creek Road resident, faces Jeffrey Evans of Basalt, a longtime proponent of finding a solution to the Entrance to Aspen. The seat is open because Commissioner George Newman is term-limited and will step down after three four-year terms.

Greg Poschman, a Brush Creek Village resident, is finishing his first term in District 3 and is running unopposed.

For day four, the topic is the novel coronavirus (with a 200-word limit): How would you rate Pitkin County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you contribute to on-going efforts to counter the effects of the pandemic if elected?


Asking businesses to close their doors, restaurants to restrict seating, and everyone to wear masks — these are not easy asks. The balance between keeping us safe from the pandemic and allowing the economy to flourish is delicate. But the city of Aspen and the BOCC took the hard road and kept our percent of cases at 1.3%. Pitkin’s percent of deaths is only .001% compared with the state of Colorado at .03%. This speaks not only to the efficacy of our COVID restrictions, but also to the quality of our health care. In addition, many of the cases testing positive here were from visitors from other areas who already had the virus. If elected, I will focus on our recovery from the economic losses businesses and families have experienced under COVID. Our Latino population has suffered a disproportionate number of jobs lost and of COVID cases, due, in part, to the fact that many Latinos work in jobs that require them to interact with the public as compared with those who can work from home. We must be willing to offer support across the spectrum — to keep businesses intact and families from losing housing and access to the basic amenities.


Pitkin County’s response is better and more informed than most counties of any size. Most importantly, safety and care for our community have come first. Our hospital has not been overwhelmed by covid cases, and access to other health care has been available.

No doubt, we are in a time of frustration, stress and exhaustion on the part of health officials and staff because of challenges to communication, organization, responsiveness and coordination with individuals, state and other entities.

During the volatile early months, no one on the planet was handling COVID-19 optimally, because it is an unprecedented crisis, from the feds on down to our local officials and medical experts. Our Public Health Department, medical team and staff continue to interpret the data, allocate the money to purchase supplies, hire experts, and fund our public response with additional manpower, food and housing assistance. In addition to my role on the Board of Health and BOCC, I initiated efforts to support local agriculture workers and local food security through a Farm to Food Pantry program, serving our extended community with local meat and produce. And I will continue to advocate for innovation in screening, testing and economic recovery efforts.


Compared to other federal, state, and local efforts, Pitkin County has done a good job of controlling the pandemic and providing financial aid to residents impacted by the economic slowdown. By following guidelines based on the science of epidemiology, we have been able to keep the surge of viral cases at a manageable level while allowing a partial reopening of our economy. The availability, cost, and effectiveness of COVID testing has been a frustrating experience. I want testing to be easy-to-get, free, and available to any resident or visitor with or without symptoms.

I will continue to give strong moral and financial support to our public health team, and continue to help educate the public about what steps we all need to fight the pandemic. I will personally model the behavior we all need to follow in order to keep our businesses and schools open: to work from home as much as possible, always wear a mask and maintain social distancing from others when outside my household, and stay isolated from other people if and when I get sick again.


The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event. Especially in the early days the situation was fluid and fast-moving. I agree with the actions taken by the county; however, I believe that in many instances our leaders were too slow to act.

My biggest criticism centers around a failing in the communication strategy, which continues to this day and impacts all aspects of our community, such as businesses and schools. There were no clearly defined roles from the incident management team and consistent, timely and accurate communication was sorely lacking.

Additionally, our county commissioners, including my opponent, have largely been silent during this crisis. For example, the county commissioners did not take a public stand and never enacted a mask ordinance.

The pandemic will continue to pose challenges to our community into 2021. If elected, I will help lead a strong communication strategy, pursue and advocate for creative solutions, collaborate with neighboring communities and actively engage the public and not simply cede responsibility to staff.

Additionally, we should recognize the pandemic has laid bare deficiencies in our emergency response abilities. These need to be honestly assessed so we can fully address mistakes before the next crisis, such as a wildfire.


We have lost track of the fact that there are no experts. Never before has the quarantine of an entire population of healthy people been attempted as a means of infection control. Whatever is learned from this experiment will become the body of knowledge in future epidemics.

However, there may never be any agreement on what we have learned, and controversy over which observations are valid is evident in local efforts to agree on a response. Our ideas are largely a subset of national and state policies, which are equally confused and contradictory. In this context it is no surprise that nearly everyone in authority has retreated to a predominate reliance on mask enforcement.

Perhaps we will be rescued by a vaccine in the near future. If not, the next phase of our experiment should be to drop all regulatory enforcement entirely for a period of months to determine if anything we have been doing has had any positive impact whatsoever. Anyone who still wants to wear a mask should do so, though it would be best to practice self-protection with one of the newly designed masks which incorporate anti-viral capability. The voluntarily unprotected will be the control group.


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