VALLEY — Each of the San Luis Valley’s six counties has a contested county commission race this year, with some more hotly contested than others.
Early voting ends today, Nov. 2, but those who have not already voted and are registered may vote at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in their respective counties.
Reminders about the candidates for the county commission races follow:
Both incumbent county commissioners face opposition on November 6. Long-time Republican Commissioner in District 1 Darius Allen faces Independent Erwin Young, and incumbent Republican County Commissioner in District 3 George Wilkinson faces Democrat Marianne Dunne.
Commission District 1
Darius Allen has served as a commissioner for Alamosa County for four terms and is seeking a fifth term.
For Allen the issues are all about the economy.
“I’m on the Economic Development Committee Board,” Allen said. “It’s the first time anyone south of Pueblo has served on the board. I believe we will be seeing more opportunities for rural Colorado.”
One project in the planning stage that will increase exposure and income for the Valley is a hiking/biking trail that will run for 140 miles, from the headwater of the Rio Grande River down to Taos Canyon.
Allen also belongs to the Transmission Line Site Task Force, Insurance Board, the Regional Landfill Board, where he is chairman, the Council Of Governments, where he is also chairman and the SLV Water Conservation District. He is also the ag chairman for all 64 counties.
“We (the three Alamosa County commissioners) are all pretty conservative, and I think because of that the county is in good financial shape,” Allen said.
Longtime Valley resident Erwin Young is running as an independent for Alamosa County Commissioner District 1.
Young has been heavily involved in the community since the late 70’s promoting use of the San Luis Valley’s solar and geothermal energy resources, and helping to establish such organizations as the Valley Food Co-op, the Alamosa Farmer’s Market, and the Mushroom Farm.
Since retirement from Colorado Gators in 2005 Young spends most of his time in community related projects with low-cost housing, renewable energy, improving tourism, and economic development.
For example, he is the chairperson for Southern Colorado Film Commission and is an active member of S.E.E.D. Park, Sustainable Environmental Economic Development.
As county commissioner Young feels he can work with all community leaders and the residents to make this a better place to live and work.
Commission District 3
George Wilkinson, current chairman of the commissioners, is seeking his third term in office.
He said he first ran for county commissioner because he felt his background as a supervisor in the Colorado Department of Transportation would give a new perspective that would complement the work already underway.
Wilkinson’s expertise has been instrumental in many road and bridge projects throughout the county, including a project going out to bid this year, passing lanes on Highway 160 near Monte Vista.
He said solar projects are important to the county, and issues involving the transmission line, including redundancy and sustainability, still need to be addressed.
“We work well as a team, and that is why we can accomplish things so well,” Wilkinson said of the county leaders. “This carries over to working as a team with other government offices and community leaders.”
Long-time Alamosa resident Marianne Dunne said, “As an elected official one must listen to the people of the county — all of the people, discern the wisdom that is there with them, and work hard to make their dreams, their hopes, their future a reality.”
Dunne explained legally her name is without the “e” because her father spelled it wrong on her birth certificate, but she generally spells her name with an “e.” It has an “e” on the ballot.
Dunne served as a Sister of Mercy in South America where she met future husband Noel Dunne. She left the community of Mercy after 16 years, married Noel, and they worked with the people of Latin America where they adopted a daughter.
The Dunnes finished their master’s degrees and 20 years ago came to the San Luis Valley to work in Christian Community Services.
Marianne Dunne served for 18 years as Pastoral Associate and the Director of Faith Formation at Sacred Heart Parish.
She retired this year.
Dunne is bilingual.
Each commissioner race in Conejos County is contested, with Republican District 1 incumbent John Sandoval facing Democratic candidate Donald Chavez and Republican District 3 incumbent Steve McCarroll facing Democrat Julie Gomez-Nuanes.
Republican John Sandoval said, “My priorities have always been seniors, veterans and youth, with a huge emphasis on fiscal responsibility.”
Among some of the major projects completed are the long-term care facility, SRS money from the U.S. Forest Service for the school districts, remodeling the old county jail for Veterans Services and the “Gap Clinic,” to provide medical services.
“One of our biggest and proudest accomplishments as commissioners is to announce that Conejos County is debt free,” Sandoval said. “We paid off all our bills, and other than a piece of property east of town, on a lease purchase, we do not owe anyone a cent.”
Projects still in the works for Sandoval include a public shooting range and the “Ortiz Cut” road project.
Donald Chavez, 60, a Democrat from Antonito, said his motivation is the desire to do something that will benefit the entire county.
A Valley native who grew up in Conejos County and graduated from Centauri High School, Chavez is the former mayor of Romeo. Chavez currently works with Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc.
“As a young man, I learned the value of hard work. Honesty and respect are values I learned from my parents, values that I use in my everyday life,” said Chavez. He said the health, welfare and education of the youth in the county should be the main concern. Other areas he plans to focus on are, veterans, seniors, health, education, water issues and the attraction of clean industry to the county.
James Steven McCarroll was born and raised in La Jara and has worked in agriculture for most of his life. He took over the position of County Commissioner for District 3 when his father passed away, and then served two more terms. McCarroll has also served as vice chair and chair of the San Luis Valley County Commissioners and on the board for South Central Colorado Seniors Policy.
McCarroll said he will try to lobby for seniors and the nutrition program.
McCarroll said one of the most important projects he’s been involved with was to stop the waste coming from Los Alamos and being transferred to rail only a few yards from what he says is one of Conejos County’s most important water sources.
McCarroll also feels strongly about veterans’ rights and solar development.
Julie Gomez-Nuanes was the first woman to hold the position of North Conejos School Board president. She also sits on the board for the Capulin Community Center and was recently named the chairman for the SLV Chapter of the Colorado Latino Forum.
She was also involved in the Alamosa River cleanup following the Summitville gold mine contamination.
Gomez has been employed for Conejos County in the past and has spent 21 years working for Valley-Wide Health Systems.
“I understand that county funding includes many different sources and am confident that I would be able to find additional resources for programs and services that the people in our county need and deserve,” Gomez said.
She added, “The role of the commissioner is to be a bridge between communities. I believe all parties, democrats, republicans and independents need to work together.”
In Costilla County, voters will be choosing between Democrat Joseph Gallegos and Republican LeRoy Edward Daughenbaugh, Jr. for County Commissioner-District 3 and Democrat Lawrence Pacheco and write-in candidate Edward E. “Ed” Atencio for County Commissioner-District 1
Joseph (Joe) C. Gallegos
Joseph (Joe) C. Gallegos, 55, is a fifth generation rancher who operates his family’s farm west of San Luis. He is a former commissioner, having served Costilla County from 2000 to 2008. Gallegos hopes to continue the service he started several years ago. Among his many goals, Gallegos intends to focus on creating and sustaining local jobs and develop more programs for senior citizens and teens.
During his service as Costilla County Commissioner, Gallegos was influential in many of the positive changes that took place within the county such as bringing the county out of a deficit and restoring the old Costilla County Courthouse.
Gallegos was influential in the implementation of the Costilla County BioDiesel Pilot Project.
Gallegos served as president of the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association and served on the Costilla County Conservancy Board for 13 years.
LeRoy Edward Daughenbaugh, Jr.,
LeRoy Edward Daughenbaugh, Jr., 53, is the Republican candidate for Costilla County Commissioner District 3. He is a San Luis resident.
Ed serves as the Costilla County Republican Secretary.
He believes in giving residents a choice at the polls. He also believes it is important for young people to become politically active and to train tomorrow’s leaders.
“I know that we need a change,” he said.
A former resident of Tiffin, Ohio, Daughenbaugh graduated from Columbian High School in 1976 and studied at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
He is the founder of Spirit of the Mesa non-denominational Church and Retreat, Inc.
He is a father of two daughters and a son.
He received unanimous overwhelming support from Costilla County Republicans in the Primary Election and will face Democrat Joe Gallegos on November 6.
Lawrence Pacheco, who was born and raised in Costilla County, is a graduate of Sierra Grande School District. He obtained a BA from Adams State College.
“I have devoted my life to living and serving the Costilla County community,” he said. “My priority is dedication, service and commitment to my community and family.”
“The countless hours I have devoted of my personal time in volunteering to serve on boards, developing and completing projects, and interacting with the public, especially in times of need, have given me a very sound understanding of our community,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco participated in the formation of the Costilla County Ambulance District and served on the Ambulance Board. He also dedicated time to the Costilla County Youth Conservation Camp, the Costilla County Economic Development Council, and the United States Selective Service System.
Edward E. “Ed” Atencio is a life long resident of Costilla County.
He recently concluded a career in education. Atencio was a classroom teacher for 36 years, an athletic director for 31 years and a coach for 43 years.
He was also on the Fort Garland Water and Sanitation Board for 24 years.
Atencio intends to focus on creating local jobs and helping senior citizens and all children.
Atencio believes that grant writing is vital and protecting water is critical. As far as education, he said “we must keep pre-school to college for all people. Education is essential to having a productive community. Once students graduate from college we must find them jobs here in the valley. We can’t afford to let them leave the valley. We must create jobs for them.”
Incumbent in District 2, Jimmy Adelman has lived in Creede since 1993 and is self employed. He has been active in the community, serving on the school board for 12 years and serving as a volunteer fireman, EMT and director of the Mineral County Search & Rescue. He is also deputy coroner.
He sees himself as a team player who can work well with county, city and other community officials.
Charles Fairchild is a lifelong Mineral County resident who is running for his second term as commissioner. He has been director of the underground museum and is a firefighter. He also has served on the planning and zoning commission.
He believes in getting things done, and one of the issues he hopes to address is the residence requirement for county employees.
Don Hollenshead has been a full-time resident of the county since 2001. He operates a home-based insurance business and has served on the health council, community center board and search and rescue board.
He points to many recent economic boosts for the area such as the recent movie filming and mining exploration.
Ramona Weber has been a resident of Creede most of her life and is a retired government teacher who opposes any effort to move the school out of Creede. She is a candidate for District 3. She is currently employed with the mining company seeking to restart the industry in Creede, and she and her husband own a liquor store.
She believes education is one of the most important issues in the county as well as looking for new business opportunities.
Rio Grande County
Rio Grande County voters will have a three-way selection for commissioner in District 3 with Republican Gene Glover and Unaffiliated candidates Marty Asplin and Pam Bricker. Incumbent Republican County Commissioner in District 1 Doug Davie has no opposition in his re-election bid. He has served for 12 years.
Gene Glover is the owner of Gateway Motors in Del Norte, though he is in the process of selling.
He said he is running to give back to the community and that “I have no axes to grind, I’m not mad at anybody.”
Regarding the economy Glover said, “We need to go after it.”
He said he spent 30 years in Cortez and bore witness to its oil operations. “I am in favor of the oil. It should not be classified as a dirty business. There is a lot that could come into this community.”
Marty Asplin serves on many local boards, and is interested in economic development. He serves on the Del Norte town board.
Asplin believes that water is going to be critical.
He believes oil comes with rules and safety, and is pushing for local tourism and development to help attract dollars.
“It is a clean source of money.”
He added that the county should consider improving its building infrastructure, including a property that could be used as a business “incubator.”
“There are a lot of smart people in the San Luis Valley,” Asplin said. “We would like to see them get started here.”
Pam Bricker has been in the Valley since 1975. For over 20 years she has served on the planning and zoning commission for Rio Grande County. She worked as the principal at Byron Spring Delta Center until she retired in 2010.
She said water is a huge issue, and that with water comes oil and gas drilling. She “would like to see a return to local control.”
“The Valley offers opportunities... We also have to protect and be careful about the kind of development we bring it,” Bricker said. “We need to be cautious beyond cautious.”
Saguache County’s commissioner races afford the most choices with the cleanest slate in the Valley with three contenders in one race and two in another.
Neither of the incumbents in Districts 1 or 2 are running again.
Facing off in District 1 are Democrat Jason Anderson, Republican Joe Cisneros and Unaffiliated candidate Lisa Cyriacks.
The District 2 race will be decided between Republican Rockard Finley and Democrat Kenneth Anderson.
Jason Anderson views the county’s most important issue as the economy.
“We have a 46.7 percent poverty rate in the Valley. Most issues come down to a better economy. I will fight for clean water and air.”
Anderson said, “When acreage is taken out of agriculture, all our other problems will seem small. Water users are working things out in court, so it’s really out of our hands.”
Regarding property tax issues Anderson said, “Everyone knows we have to bring our taxes up to date. We need to give the assessor all the resources we can to get the job done.”
Regarding PILT/SRS Anderson stressed the importance of dividing the money received for the schools and the county each year in such a way that it can be made available to the county’s general fund.
Regarding solar development Anderson asked, “Is solar a product we sell or is it for our own use? How do we get electricity out of here? Industrial solar has its limitations.”
Joe Cisneros is a lifelong resident of Saguache County and Center.
He was elected to two terms on the Center School Board and served as president and vice president of the board and as representative to SLV Board of Cooperative services.
He worked for about 17 years with Saguache Social Services, six years as an Ombudsman and for 18 years has been successfully self employed.
His goals include restoring confidence in county government; restoring transparent, fair and honest elections; restoring fair hiring practices, with a positive work environment; less government; conservative budgeting; protection and conservation of valley water; and job creation with responsible economic development.
“The BOCC should act transparently but it [CORA] can be abused. Everyone in the county needs to be on the same page.”
He said he favors the electronic recording of commissioner meetings.
Concerning the protection of citizens from oil and gas exploration dangers Cisneros said he did not know if fracking polluted water and further studies needed to be completed.
Lisa Cyriacks said, “I’ll work with local people, make things easier by relaxing land use regulations … We need to give business incentives and support local initiatives.”
Regarding water issues, she said, “There’s migration out of here already because of the drought. I support agriculture and the existing ag base.”
She advocated for open meetings and open records, and perhaps hiring a public relations person to develop policy.
Regarding property tax issues Cyriacks said, “We need to get clear about this property tax issue so we don’t have to continue coming back for mill levies. We need to make sure all property owners are on the tax rolls.”
Regarding education and PILT/SRS Cyriacks said, “Kids must get the services that they need. But superintendents must tell the BOCC their concerns. There needs to be more dialogue.”
On the subject of solar Cyriacks said, “A lot of people use solar out of necessity. The SLV should be a leader in the transition from carbon based to renewable energy, positioning itself to develop solar.”
Rockard Finley said, “Citizens should have access to the BOCC; commissioners have to start being available and accountable. Crestone, Saguache and Center need to work together on their cultural differences.”
He added, “The country’s in bad shape and until the national economy picks up we won’t see an expansion of businesses to help the economy in Colorado.”
Regarding water issues, Finley said, “The present water situation has affected the county and its tax base very much. I can’t see how the drought will affect it.”
Regarding education and PILT/SRS Finley said, “SRS funds are temporary funds. The general fund sacrificed their money. If the fund keeps getting shorted, services will be cut. Schools should be required to account for how this money is spent.”
Regarding solar development Finley said, “I am a strong supporter of solar. With the 1041 permit there are enough conditions that it can be a win/win for both the county and Center, (Solar Reserve), but they have to sell the electricity first.”
Kenneth Anderson said the county’s biggest need is jobs.
“Unemployment is at 10.3 percent in the Valley. We need job ideas and need to develop solar energy.”
Regarding water issues, Anderson said, “I don’t know if the tax base will change much [considering the drought]. We just have to be careful what we are doing [sprinkler-wise] with the drought situation. We used to have wetlands, but someday we’ll get moisture again.”
Regarding property tax issues Anderson said, “We must have some parameters so we can get these properties on the tax rolls. I’m not sure why they aren’t getting done.”
Regarding education and PILT/SRS Anderson said, “Everyone wants to hold the county accountable, but who’s holding the schools accountable? Does this money go to students? Kids need the basics … The schools must understand this [funding] will come to an end next year.”
Regarding solar Anderson said, “I’m in favor of solar energy; we’ll see what happens with Solar Reserve. I’d rather sell solar energy than our water.”