Businessman DeClark to focus on ‘people side’
While his opponent portrays Eagle County as facing a crisis over growth and development, Eagle County commissioner candidate Richard DeClark paints a decidedly different picture of the area and its needs. DeClark, the Republican candidate in the commissioner District 1 race, said he views the county’s responsibility for the care and well-being of its residents, particularly the young and old, as the key issues in the race. “I think land use is important but let’s not forget the people side,” said DeClark. His opponent, Democrat Peter Runyon, has made growth control the focus of his campaign. Incumbent Michael Gallagher isn’t seeking re-election due to health problems. Both DeClark and Runyon are political newcomers. To address the “people side” of the equation, DeClark proposes using the county’s resources to build an assisted-living center so that older citizens and the disabled can affordable to live in the area they love. DeClark said his eyes were opened to the problems of the elderly and disabled when he served as the past board chairman of the Heuga Center, which is similar to the Aspen area’s Challenge Aspen, a nonprofit organization that helps the disabled re-engage in skiing and other outdoor pursuits.DeClark also supports using tools like tax relief and free-market incentives to provide more child-care facilities, although he doesn’t want the county government to run them. He said he is a firm believer in research that shows dollars invested in child care saves on problems spent later in lives, when problems may develop.That free-market, businesslike approach dominates DeClark’s view of county government. It comes from his own rags-to-riches success story.DeClark, 47, started working in his family’s business at the tender age of 12. His father was a salesman for a firm that developed flavors for the food-and-beverage industry. When his dad lost his job, he started his own business and incorporated Richard and his brother into it at a young age.They developed it from a company with three employees to one with about 350 and manufacturing plants in California, Washington, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.Richard got a hands-on education by working in all facets of the business, from accounting to production and sales. He said he always tried to stay in contact with his employees and gain their perspectives on the business.”I never had an opportunity to go to college because I was working so much,” he said.Running that business, he said, provided the kind of expertise he believes is vital to running an efficient county government. One important skill DeClark learned, he said, is to delegate responsibility to employees who have earned trust.He and his brother sold the business after it was in the family for 20 years. DeClark had a non-competition clause in the sales contract, so he retired and moved with his family to Edwards from Southern California in 1994.Once the prohibition from the industry expired, DeClark formed another, smaller company that works on developing flavors for makers of food and drinks.Along with his business background, DeClark’s experience serving on nonprofit organizations and in his children’s sports clubs have helped form his priorities as a commissioner candidate.He and his wife, Janet, have three sons, ages 18, 15 and 13. DeClark said the county government needs to assist in efforts to add recreational opportunities for teens and older children.In a broader sense, he feels developing Eagle County into a year-round destination for recreational pursuits is the key to the area’s economic prosperity. “Tourism is a ‘clean’ industry – contributing significant revenue with minimal environmental impact,” said his campaign literature.The piece doesn’t address the connection between skiing and recreational development in Colorado’s mountain towns and development pressure. In his campaign literature and in an interview, DeClark downplayed the county’s role in land use. He emphasized that more than half the people in Eagle County live in its towns and that the county government has no say in many critical land-use issues.He expressed concerns that the county’s economy has not completely recovered from the slump it suffered starting in 2001.DeClark’s free-market approach carries over into land-use issues. He said he supports the open space program. He wants the county to create an inventory of open space purchase, list its priorities and be ready to take action when the opportunities unfold.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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