Eagle County home-rule commission candidates
October 11, 2005
Editor’s note: Eagle County voters will decide next month whether to explore becoming a home-rule county, which would allow the county government greater leeway in the way it organizes itself. An 11-member commission would oversee this process. The Aspen Times is publishing Q & A responses from the 21 candidates seeking a seat on the commission.Don CohenDistrict 2Who are you?For the past 12 years I’ve been a full-time resident in Edwards. I’m a Denver native and spent 25 years building and running a couple of companies in corporate communications and high tech. I am the current president of the Berry Creek Metro District and serve as the executive director of the Vail Valley Economic Council on a pro bono basis.Why do you want this job?Serving on the charter committee would be a uniquely challenging assignment. Rarely does one have the opportunity to have direct involvement in drafting a potential governmental structure.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work?The clear driver of the home-rule initiative is to focus on expansion of the board of county commissioners. However, a home-rule charter requires a complete delineation of county government responsibilities. These are significant details that need to be carefully evaluated. I will keep an open mind to evaluating these issues as they come up in the process.
Bill JewittDistrict 1Who are you?Bill Jewitt, Vail, partner in Bart & Yeti’s Restaurant.Why do you want this job?I believe it is rewarding to give back to the community in ways such as this. I also believe my background can be helpful. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science, have served on the Vail Town Council and currently serve on the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work?I do not have an agenda for the charter. The process should be about looking at the possible solutions to the situation and then determining if there is a better way to run the county. We should be open to a free exchange of ideas.
Ron WolfeDistrict 2Who are you?I am the mayor of Avon, chairman of the Eagle County Regional Transit Agency board, chairman of the County Open Space Committee and a retired business executive. My business career included high-technology assignments as well as operations and management of a global corporation. I also served as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, including a tour in Vietnam.Why do you want this job?Exploration and consideration of home rule is an essential process that should be undertaken by Eagle County. We have to better understand how to manage today and in the future. Questions about how best to manage growth, economic development and quality-of-life challenges are already before us and will intensify in the future. The ways that we structure county government and manage it have an influence on whether or not we succeed in dealing with these challenges. My business and technical experience and skills can help the charter commission deliver the very best possible draft for voter consideration.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work?Just what the draft charter will look like will be the result of the hard work of 11 elected members and is not something that can be defined up front. There are many, many variables that the commission will have to consider and take a position on, and then propose one option to the voters. To me the most critical issue is the composition of the Board of County Commissioners. One option is a five-commissioner board elected by district and without party affiliation. Five commissioners will allow a complete study of issues and better discussion of a broader range of ideas and options.Five commissioners give more manpower to interface with our towns and communities and participate in broader issues at the regional and state levels. Also, with five commissioners, two are permitted to informally discuss and exchange ideas, something that is not possible with only three commissioners. Without the burden of required political affiliation, citizens can become candidates for the Board of County Commissioners through a simple petition process, just as town officials do. This will allow more choice to us as voters and will allow good candidates to run for election without having to espouse any particular political party ideology and without our being limited to one candidate per party.
Harvie BranscombDistrict 3Who are you?Harvie Branscomb, El Jebel, owner of a small software company that sells primarily in Asia.Why do you want this job?I want better and geographically relevant representation for all of our citizens. With five commissioners, we will have better local knowledge, extra experience and more diversity among the several individuals who govern Eagle County and who will significantly affect our quality of life.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work?Only five simple but intelligent improvements for better representation: Create five districts and five commissioners elected by the voters of their own districts. Allow candidates who fail to win a party primary to run unaffiliated in the general election. Allow formation of neighborhood caucuses to educate county commissioners before important decisions. Allow commissioners to meet and vote in the Eagle County building in El Jebel. Create a reasonable process for citizens to vote on future improvements to the County Charter.Improvements I would recommend be made at a later date: Appoint instead of elect some county officials. Allow citizens to vote for several candidates in order of preference.
Dick BourretDistrict 2Who are you?Dick Bourret, Edwards, retired commercial real estate broker, current member of the local Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity boards of directors.Why do you want this job?It’s time to take a look at how the county is governed and how growth will affect our future. Also, there is a lack of representation in the county, especially for the people in Basalt and El Jebel.This is an opportunity to look at the future of the valley.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work?I’ll go into this with no biases or preconceived conditions. But I expect to see better representation for all of the voters in the county. I also expect to see the county take advantage of all the opportunities we can.