Eagle County candidates vie for foothold in RF Valley
October 12, 2006
All three candidates in the race for the Eagle County commissioner district three seat are willing to talk themselves out of a job in the Basalt/El Jebel area.Unaffiliated candidate Roger Brown, Republican Tom Edwards and Democrat Sara Fisher are all from the Gypsum area. The district they are trying to represent includes the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County.But if the three candidates have their way, that wouldn’t last long. All three said they support a proposal on this November’s ballot that would expand the board of county commissioners from three to five seats – giving Basalt and El Jebel its own representative.”I don’t know the people over there enough to really represent them well,” said Edwards. That’s a startling admission, perhaps, for somebody seeking office, but not far from the sentiments expressed by his foes in the race.”I really think Basalt should have a commissioner of its own,” said Brown.Fisher said she strongly supports the ballot question to switch Eagle County to a Home Rule style of government, in part because it gives Basalt and El Jebel “a healthy opportunity” to have their own representative on the Board of County Commissioners.
If the Home Rule proposal passes, Basalt and El Jebel would remain part of district three for one more year. A special election in November 2007 would determine the new district’s commissioner. If Home Rule fails, Brown, Edwards or Fisher will represent the district for four years.Commissioner Tom Stone, who currently represents district three, must step down due to term limits.Brown goes greenBrown, 71, is a retired filmmaker who has lived in Eagle County since 1962. His work includes early promotional films for Vail ski area and adventures films for Aspenite John Wilcox.He is married and has five kids, three from a previous marriage and two with wife Anne Helena.Conservation is at the core of his campaign. “I’m just trying to save what’s here,” said Brown.He wants green spaces preserved between towns. He wants water flowing in the streams. He fought to prevent the Denver Water Board from building diversion projects to tap Eagle County’s water. He helped craft state regulations that established minimum stream flows.Preservation of natural resources is his No. 1 issue, he said, and water issues are his passion. Development within the county’s boundaries presents the same type of threat as Denver when it comes to depleting the county’s water supplies, he warned.He wants to make sure developers have rights to actual water supplies, not just paper water rights, before their projects are approved. And he doesn’t want developments within the county to drain the water supply.”We have enough water for these developments. We won’t have any water left if we use it that way,” he said.Although he acknowledged his isn’t familiar with a lot of the issues in Basalt and El Jebel, Brown said he believes he is more in tune with that part of the district on growth and environmental issues. The Roaring Fork Valley part of Eagle County is widely considered more restrictive on development than the main body of the county.”They would find in me an ally if they want to preserve the quality of life there,” Brown said.He is promoting construction of rail between Denver and Salt Lake City. Branches could connect the Vail area to Leadville and Aspen to the Interstate 70 corridor – if that’s what residents desire. He believes rail would ease the Roaring Fork Valley’s transportation congestion “but I’m not about to push it down anybody’s throat,” he said.
Edwards immersed in public service
Edwards, 61, is a retired architect who moved from Pasadena, Calif., to the Gypsum area more than 11 years ago. He has been married to Margaret, a school teacher in Gypsum, for 40 years.Since moving to Eagle County he has immersed himself in public service. He was selected to fill a vacancy on the Gypsum Town Council eight years ago. He has won election twice and has two years left on the current term. He is involved in a variety of civic causes, such as serving on the Eagle County Open Space Advisory Board and as president of the nonprofit Eagle Valley Land Trust.Edwards also was elected to the Eagle County Home Rule Charter Commission, which crafted the proposal for a style of government that goes before voters in November.Edwards said he doesn’t see himself as a champion of one specific issue, and he would enter office without an agenda.Edwards said he feels more strongly than ever after participating on that commission and meeting with people during his campaign that expanding the board to five members and increasing representation for the citizens of Eagle County is the right direction to go. “The more I campaign, the more I realize how important it is to have somebody [serving] from that side,” he said.If Home Rule fails and Edwards wins, he would have to represent an area that he acknowledges he doesn’t know well. He said he would be open to ways to “bridge the gap.”As a commissioner, he would move meetings off of Tuesday so that he occasionally could attend town council meetings in the various towns of the county to contact elected officials and learn local issues, he said.
Fisher touts record in officeFisher, 50, has lived in Eagle County for 28 years. She has been married to Bill for 16 years.Fisher has held elected office in Eagle County before. She was appointed as Eagle County Clerk and Recorder in January 1993 and won election twice to four-year terms. Fisher ran in those races as a Republican. She changed party affiliation after her last election in 1998 due to differences with party leadership. She was forced out of office by term limits.Fisher currently works for SysTest Labs, an independent verification and validation firm that examines computer software and systems. Fisher said she is an expert in the elections division.While she supports Home Rule and believes Basalt and El Jebel deserve their own representative, she also feels her performance as county clerk shows she is “very Roaring Fork friendly.””My track record shows my availability to citizens of the Roaring Fork Valley,” she said. Fisher said she increased staffing in the clerk’s satellite office in El Jebel when the demand grew. She remodeled the clerk’s space to make it more user friendly when it was located by the old firehouse. She helped design the new space in the Eagle County office building and ensured technology was included to allow research on property sales and other data.
Fisher noted the Roaring Fork portion of Eagle County is different from the rest of the county because it is oriented around Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. rather than Vail and Vail Resorts. It depends on RFTA rather than the Eco transportation system that serves the Eagle Valley.Despite those fundamental differences, some of the same core issues apply, such as affordable housing, open space and transportation, she said. Fisher said she’s tried to learn what’s on the minds of Roaring Fork Valley residents by visiting that part of the county at least every other week during the five months since she announced her candidacy.She attended two packed public hearings this fall on Ace Lane’s development proposal in El Jebel called Tavaci, although she didn’t speak.If she wins election and Home Rule fails, she said, she would consider holding office hours in the Roaring Fork Valley “if it makes sense to do that.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org