Eagle County Commissioners: Roaring Fork Valley outreach a top priority

Eagle County commissioners
Guest commentary

In the past six months our community has been tested in ways we hoped would never happen, that most of us could not have even envisioned. COVID-19 is a global problem, and the disease’s presence here has caused a wide range of hard-hitting local impacts, from illness and death to job loss and severe economic hardship to domestic and child care worries that continue to cause pain.

Through all this we want you to know your Eagle County leadership has been with you every step of the way and will not rest until we are in the clear.

After the initial intense efforts to adapt to these sweeping, novel changes to our very way of life, we quickly began to develop a strategy to fight back and create resilience wherever possible. That included a push to bridge gaps between the county seat in the Eagle River Valley with our constituents and neighbors in the Roaring Fork Valley. Representatives from Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties hold a weekly conversation to discuss shared challenges and solutions. Officials from all three public health departments use this time to evaluate disease trends within each of our respective populations, striving to create consistency in procedures and expectations. Additionally, town and administrative managers across county lines convene weekly for the same reasons.

We sincerely hope that you’ve noticed these efforts, and remind you that our door is always open. We respond quickly to questions submitted to, and host either a weekly Ask Me Anything session or Community Conversation in an effort to make ourselves and other leaders in the community accessible to the public to answer any and all questions. Details about these forums can be found on our One Valley Voice Facebook page. We genuinely consider all constituent feedback, and some great discussions and ultimately policy decisions come from that back-and-forth.

We know life has been tough and some measures controversial, but we are optimistic that our behavioral changes are paying dividends. Last week, our data-driven COVID-19 risk level shifted downward, as some of our more urgent concerns are alleviated. Our deepest hope is that we will soon be able to welcome students and teachers back to the classroom and enjoy a strong winter season with the jobs and economic vitality that will bring. The Roaring Fork School District has announced an improved distance learning model for at least Aug. 17 through Sept. 21. If disease trends continue to decline, there is a possibility that in-person education can resume this fall.

Rob Stein, superintendent for the district, honored us with the following statement: “I know that sometimes Eagle County residents on ‘this side of the hill’ feel that the county isn’t as attentive to their needs. However, in the past few months, we have been getting top-shelf support from Eagle’s public health team, and they have shown leadership in convening conversations for the Roaring Fork Valley. They have also provided exemplary tools and resources that other counties are borrowing, leading efforts to take a tri-county approach to a virus that does not respect jurisdictional boundaries.”

Thank you for those kind words, Rob. We are grateful for your appreciation and will continue to serve.

Lastly, we have been working hard to reach and support our Latino community in the Roaring Fork Valley, who comprise as much as 40% of the population of Basalt and El Jebel. These constituents have varying degrees of familiarity with the mechanics of public health needs, emergency assistance, and also face language barriers. We convene regularly with leaders from this community, including Voces Unidas de las Montañas, to determine needs and deliver solutions. Our public health department spearheaded the creation of a Spanish-only Facebook page, Mi Salud, Mi Charco, to supply information and tools to those residents in a culturally relevant manner.

We know these are tough times, made even more challenging with the smoke from regional fires. We will get through this. Please, take time for yourself and your mental health. Get outside, disconnect, take a breather. This place we call home has some amazing therapeutic remedies that we are so lucky to have. Now more than ever we are humbly grateful to be here, and we remain fiercely invigorated to recapture our way of life and return to what we need to be: a healthy and vibrant community of wonderful people.

The Eagle County Commissioners are Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney, and Matt Scherr.