Richards to seek re-election as Pitkin County commissioner |

Richards to seek re-election as Pitkin County commissioner

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Rachel Richards

ASPEN – Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards said Thursday she will seek re-election in November, voicing a desire to continue working on both regional and local issues that affect the county.

Her announcement came before Thursday evening’s Democratic county assembly at Aspen High School, where Richards intended to seek the party’s endorsement.

Thus far, Richards is the only candidate to announce a bid for the District 2 seat to which she was first elected in 2006, besting opponent Jim True.

Also up for election in November is the District 1 seat; Tom Clapper and Jack Johnson have both announced their candidacies.

Richards, 49, noted she has put in nearly 17 years in local elected office since she was first elected to the Aspen City Council in 1991. Her time on the council included one term as mayor.

“It’s been an honor to serve. I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” she said. “I can’t believe how fast 3 1/2 years have gone by.”

Commissioners serve four-year terms and are limited to three terms.

Richards, who works full time as a commissioner, said she has no aspirations to seek a state political office, and called Pitkin County well-represented by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, an independent from Gunnison.

Local politics, though, is a definite draw, she said.

“It’s a little bit competitive, it takes strategy, it’s mentally engaging, and you’re always learning something,” Richards said.

Locally, the commissioner said she wants to see the county complete the environmental assessment process to lengthen the local airport runway and see BRT, or Bus Rapid Transit, become a reality in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Hidden Gems proposal to create additional Wilderness in areas surrounding the county and the valley is something Pitkin County has yet to weigh in on, but Richards said she supports the effort in concept. She called on Gems advocates to continue working with backcountry user groups to gain consensus on what has been a controversial proposal for some factions.

“It’s hard to imagine any Wilderness would have been passed if you had the motorized [recreation] industry that we have today,” Richards said.

She said she’d also like to see the county reach an agreement with proponents of the Wexner-Sutey Ranch land exchange, a proposal that has divided the environmental community and spawned more than a year’s worth of discussions. The prolonged debate will be back before commissioners later this month.

“I’m dissatisfied we haven’t been able to reach a solution on that yet,” Richards said. The county’s resistance to the original proposal, though, has resulted in an improved offer from Leslie and Abigail Wexner, who want to swap the Sutey Ranch in Garfield County to the Bureau of Land Management for BLM acreage abutting the Wexners’ Two Shoes Ranch, located outside of Carbondale in Pitkin County.

Regionally, Richards is one of two county representatives to Colorado Counties Inc., which lobbies on state issues of county interest, and she has become the commissioners’ point person on statewide water issues. She has a seat on the Ruedi Water and Power Authority board and is vice chairperson of the Water Quality and Quantity Committee for the Colorado Northwest Council of Governments, among other assignments related to water resources.

“It’s a slow-moving landslide … the demand for mountain water and transmountain diversions,” she said.

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