Farris joins top board for Colorado Counties | AspenTimes.com

Farris joins top board for Colorado Counties

Naomi Havlen

Dorothea Farris is going where no Pitkin County commissioner has been for a long time.Farris was nominated and elected earlier this month to sit on the board of directors for Colorado Counties Inc. It’s an organization that includes members from almost every county in Colorado, and Farris’ participation means Pitkin County will have a much louder, stronger voice in discussing important legislative issues.”I’ll be able to tell CCI how people in Pitkin County feel about the fee demos at the Maroon Bells, for example, and if people on that committee are convinced and agree with us, we can take it to a national level,” Farris said. “If [Congressman] Mark Udall hears that not just us but that 15 counties feel that way about the demos, it’ll have a lot more impact.”The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners hasn’t always had the best relationship with CCI. Farris said the board decided for a long time not to participate in the organization because much of the rest of the state is viewed as politically conservative. Pitkin County, with its more liberal beliefs and mountain resort sensibilities, didn’t always fit in.Farris said she and fellow Commissioner Jack Hatfield realized around 2001 that they should get involved and try to make the county’s voice heard.”My feeling is that if you’re going to be part of this state, you have to participate in an organization that represents the state, even if no one agrees with you,” she said. She and Hatfield began attending CCI meetings, and she said the reaction at first was ‘Oh God, here comes Pitkin County,’ but soon people were saying they were glad she was willing to speak out.”Some people agreed with us on issues and hadn’t been willing to express it,” she said. “We did have opportunities to make a difference, and I think now Pitkin County has gained respect from other counties in the state.”In fact, many of the issues Pitkin County faces in terms of land use and development – like construction of monster homes and preservation of open space – are now affecting other counties, she said.”They used to laugh when I said we were limiting homes to 5,000 square feet, and now they’re starting to understand,” she said.Farris became active with a number of steering committees as part of CCI, including public land, agriculture and tourism. She eventually became part of the organization’s mountain district and earlier this month was elected to the overall board of directors. Only seven other people sit on that board.”We haven’t had a board member on their board of directors in my entire history with the county – that’s the last 17 years,” said Pitkin County Manager Hilary Smith. “We are very pleased to have that presence.”Farris said Summit County, which includes the ski resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone, recently joined CCI. Another like-minded county, Boulder County, is in negotiations with CCI about joining.”This is not just a group of very conservative thinkers – it’s a group of people who want to share ideas,” Farris said. “It shouldn’t be just a group of people who always agree.”If Boulder County joined the organization, Farris said, she might be inclined to agree with its members on a number of issues, but sometimes she’s found that she agrees with Mesa County. It’s the “charm” of CCI, she said.”We find ourselves agreeing with mining communities, gambling communities and tourism communities,” she said. “The people in Lamar are making buses, and there’s a connection there with us and looking for mass transit. All of us just want the best for our counties.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com