Eagle County rejects home rule, elects Fisher | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County rejects home rule, elects Fisher

Eagle County commissioner candidate Sara Fisher waves to motorists driving by at Edwards Elementary School on Tuesday. She won a three-way race for a commissioner seat. (Kira Horvath/Vail Daily)

Eagle County voters rejected a change in the style of government that would have given the Basalt and El Jebel area their own county commissioner.

A proposal to switch to a home rule style of government was defeated 6,266 to 5,446, according to unofficial results from the county clerk’s office. One of the biggest changes of the proposal would have been a switch from three to five commissioners.

Jacque Whitsitt, a former Basalt councilwoman who campaigned for home rule, said she feared the issue would appeal to voters of the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county, but fail in Eagle Valley. The Roaring Fork chunk of the county only has 20 percent of the population.

The campaign over home rule was tepid this fall, but heated up when opposition materialized late in the race. While proponents touted greater representation from the addition of two commissioners, opponents said it would increase the cost of government too drastically. The two additional commissioners would have received salaries of about $75,000 each per year and would have required additional support staff.

Whitsitt and Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon, another supporter of the proposed change, cried foul over the opposition’s eleventh hour tactics. Right around Halloween, yard signs, patterned after red stop signs, started popping up in public rights-of-way around Basalt and El Jebel with the warning, “Stop Home Rule, Preserve Your Rights.”

Whitsitt labeled the signs an inaccurate “scare tactic.”

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“It definitely increases rights over here,” she said. “I’m adamantly supported this because we need a commissioner from over here.”

Runyon called the opponents’ signs “offensive and disingenuous.” The home rule style of government would have expanded the right of county residents, not take rights away, he said.

With no district of its own, the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county will be represented by Sara Fisher, who won election to the District 3 seat, which includes the Basalt and El Jebel areas.

Fisher, a Democrat, topped Republican Tom Edwards and unaffiliated candidate Roger Brown. Fisher pulled in 6,512 votes to 4,880 for Edwards and 1,362 for Brown.

Fisher, 50, served as Eagle County clerk and recorder from 1993 until 2003. She was initially appointed, then won two elections as a Republican. She changed party affiliation in 1998 because of disagreements with the party leadership in the county. She has been a resident of Eagle County for 28 years.

Eagle County voters turned down a proposed property tax increase to raise funds for early childhood care facilities and programs. The proposal had 7,448 votes against it and 5,373 votes in support.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com