Eagle County home-rule commission candidates
October 10, 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. In the coming days, The Aspen Times will publish Q&A responses from the 21 candidates seeking a seat on the commission.Pete BuckleyDistrict 2Who are you?Pete Buckley, Avon, engineer and small-business owner.Why do you want this job?The political system in Eagle County is not representing the interests of our working families nor of the small-business owner that creates jobs here in Eagle County. Rewriting the county charter is a way to try and represent the interests of the little guy vs. the big guy and his fat checkbook.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work? We need to eliminate the career politician in Eagle County and the poor representation we have because of it. Currently, a commissioner makes about $55,000 per year. That’s $165,000 a year for the three commissioners we have now.What’s needed is seven commissioners making $20,000 each representing the interests of their particular county “ward” where they were uniquely elected. The commissioner job then becomes part-time for the most part, and the interests of all parts of the county are more fairly represented. This plan also allows the working man or woman to campaign and win in their ward, without having to raise tens of thousands of dollars to run a campaign for one of three spots.
Rohn RobbinsAt-large districtWho are you? Rohn K. Robbins, Edwards attorney, legal columnist, radio show host. Edwards resident.Why do you want this job?By training and on account of personal interest in the workings of government, I would like to be involved in helping transition Eagle County to a more modern and effective method of governance. I am not a zealot in favor of one agenda or another, but see my role as conscientiously questioning, listening, and leaving no issue of county government as off limits.I believe I would be a voice of reason and pragmatism and am not afraid to run counter-current to the prevailing thinking of the commission if I believe that the county would be best served otherwise. I believe my proven leadership skills will assist in guiding the commission to a reasonable, simple and understandable solution to the issues it is charged to consider.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work? This is a question that cannot, conscientiously, be answered yet. The office of the commission is, first, to educate itself regarding county operations and policies and, second, after becoming fully conversant in how the county runs, to determine what, in its estimation, would be in the best interests of the citizenry and in hopes of modernizing county operations. While expansion of the county commissioners from three to five has certainly been a driving force behind the call for the commission’s review, it is not the only issue on the table. Other issues which are equally on the table are making county offices non-party-affiliated, making positions such as county coroner nonelective, finding ways to make county government more fiscally accountable, and discovering means by which to affect economic savings to county taxpayers.
Robert SchultzDistrict 3Who are you? Robert (Bob) Schultz, my home is in Missouri Heights in the unincorporated Roaring Fork portion of Eagle County. My consulting firm, Robert Schultz Consulting, provides land-use and strategic-planning services to public and private sector clients. I also served on the Eagle County Planning Commission for six years and was awarded a Distinguished Service Award by the county for that work.Why do you want this job? Over the years of participating on the planning commission and task forces for the county, I found that the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county was under-represented and that having only three county commissioners limited county involvement in intergovernmental organizations and coordination with town efforts.In addition, it seemed that decisions were sometimes based on getting two votes rather than seeking compromise and consensus. I think county residents would be well-served by a thorough examination of a move to five county commissioners through a home rule charter. My experience with Eagle County and professional skills would be useful to the charter commission effort.What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work? I would like a draft charter that reflects the thoughts of a broad cross section of county residents after careful review of current county structure and the alternatives available to home rule charter counties. The proposed charter should be the result of both careful study and public input. Eagle County has a great staff and many current strengths, and a charter should be able to show citizens that we are maintaining the best aspects of our current organization and making changes so that it can be even better. I believe that a group of respected local citizens can form a better structure for county governance than the “one-size-fits-all” structure prescribed by state statutes. Other than a desire to provide better representation, I do not have a specific agenda for the charter.
Jacque WhitsittDistrict 3Who are you? Jacque Whitsitt, Basalt, executive director for the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, a nonprofit association of the mayors and managers of the Colorado resorts. Other work includes eight years on Basalt Town Council, past chair of the Roaring Fork Transit Board, current chair of the MidValley Trails Committee, founding board member of La Mision (a bilingual newspaper) and a long history of participation on other nonprofit volunteer boards and committees in the region and state. Why do you want this job? The county is physically large and separated by a mountain. This creates challenges for fair geographic representation. A home rule charter would allow us to have five commissioners instead of three and could designate representation more closely aligned with geography. Especially for outlying parts of the county, this is imperative for good governance. I would also be interested in the commission discussing nonpartisan elections and better citizen access to county government. What would you like a draft charter to look like when the commission has done its work? There is a menu of issues the commission could include in a charter that would affect the structure of county government. Until we begin the work, I can only say that I think every issue should be on the table, but that a simpler version of the initial charter might make more sense than having too many bells and whistles. If the citizens decide down the road that more bells and whistles are needed, the charter could be amended. Start with the basics and avoid making this issue confusing.