McCracken in re-election bid for Saguache Commissioner District 1

Tom McCracken Saguache County Commissioner

SAGUACHE COUNTY — Tom McCracken, Saguache County Commissioner District 1 is running for a second term.

McCracken moved to Saguache County in 1980 and, "Bought a piece of land and a chalet in the Baca Grande subdivision. Soon after at the time, I was tree planting, and I did some logging for John Baxter. My wife and I had the opportunity to start a farm in Saguache in 1987 and we farmed there for 27 years. We established a lot of relationships, and we supplied the Crestone area with vegetables. I delivered organic vegetables to the Front Range and into Northern New Mexico. That led me to start a distribution business that coincided with the drought in 2002. With a partner, we ran a business called Growers Organic out of Denver for seven years and we had about 30 employees. We delivered throughout the state and New Mexico. I came back to the farm in about 2015 and decided I needed to move to our property in Northern Crestone and we started an orchard here. There is a small greenhouse, a root cellar, and a processing plant. I still haven't built a house there, but I want to. desperately. I've wanted to build there for the last 40 years.

"Back in 2020, I decided to run for county commissioner, I had been paying attention to county politics, particularly the issue of recycling at the landfill. I also paid attention to road issues and the kiosk being used for different things including a used car lot. [The kiosk is located on the T Road very close to the Town of Crestone]. I was engaged with the county even before I considered running for commissioner, but then as water issues became more serious, I thought I might have more influence as a commissioner than as a private citizen. Water issues were a main consideration in running as county commissioner."

In describing some of his accomplishments as a commissioner, McCracken said, "Soon after I was elected, we re-established a recycling program at the landfill that had been completely defunct. I was able to persuade Southern Colorado Seniors to provide senior meals to the Crestone Area.

"One of the things I've noticed over the years is that the county has basically ignored Crestone as much as possible. We didn't have the senior meals, although they were available in Center and Saguache. We didn't have the Chafee Shuttle and I was able to convince them to start providing services here.

"Water has been the most significant issue I've been involved in. I was appointed to be on the Development Resources Group and the Rio Grande Council of Governments board. With John Noffsker [Rio Grande County Commissioner] together we revamped both of those organizations. Now they are both healthy and fully functional. I was elected chair of the council of governments. The council was pretty much dead when I first got involved, it didn't seem to have a mission in life, there was not much membership activity, not paying their dues. Now we have every county and municipality in the Valley, except one, paying their dues. They are also active in the organization." McCracken is also the Chair of the San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association.

"The six-county IGA [The IGA is a multi-county intergovernmental agreement that gives groundwater greater protections from export out of the Valley] began during lunch at a water resources workshop at Adams State, I took the idea [of an IGA] to the group and for the council of governments to take it on as a project and got a lot of support. We went ahead and got grants and we hired a law firm to represent us [Barbara Green, David Baumgarten with Sullivan Green Seavy LLC] now it is basically a done deal, the IGA is in place. We just adopted our operating procedures should an application to export water ever be filed. I'm very happy about that, it is very significant. After all these years of fighting one export project after another, I think we now have all the tools in our tool belt to take on an export application and really investigate it rigorously."

McCracken added that all of the costs associated with an export proposal will be borne by the applicant.

"In other water issues, the county has contracted the water firm Quantum to do some well monitoring out in the Saguache Creek area to try to understand how pumping affects the unconfined aquifer. Most of the test wells in that area are in the confined aquafer. The state defines that as sustainable because it is a confined aquifer system, but I believe the data we are uncovering is showing that it is really in both aquifers and the model needs to be updated with more data and we will be able to provide that. The water conservation district had been kind of ignoring us up here.

"Regarding affordable housing, the council of governments has a few projects, broadband, and transmission lines, and now a regional affordable housing project and we are also doing affordable housing in Saguache County. We hope to do some single-family housing in Casita Park, and we just put out a rfp [request for proposal] to get an architectural firm to design including passive solar and include as many local materials as possible. That was basically my project and I'm really excited about it."

If re-elected, McCracken said, "I think it is a real waste of taxpayer money to train a commissioner for four years and not have them continue. It took me three years to really learn the ropes and I'm just getting comfortable with things like the county budget. We have 1,600+ lines on our spreadsheet for the budget. It is really complicated, and it takes a while to learn these things, develop relationships, and work with all the employees. There are also all the relationships you establish around the state. I participate in the Colorado Counties Inc.; commissioners from all around the state meet in Denver and we discuss pending legislation, and we discuss it and how it may affect counties. We are always on the lookout for unfunded mandates, and regulations imposed on us that we may or may not be able to even deal with. Jason Anderson, my predecessor was very active in the organization, and I've tried to be very active in the organization.

"You establish these relationships with these other commissioners and many of them are not term-limited and they have influence with state senators that has been gained over time. I've established a relationship with Kate Greenberg [Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.] I stay in touch with her via Zoom once a month. Over time you get a chance to leverage these relationships and get some things accomplished. I feel like it is almost irresponsible for me not to run again and utilize all the tools I've been able to build.

"I really want to get some services going in Crestone. I've been pushing hard to get similar services we have in Center and Saguache in Crestone. We have at least the population here as we do in the other areas. We are way underserved compared to that. We may need a building [in the Crestone area] maybe rent space, I'm not sure how it will work out, but it is high on my priority list and I'm judicious with the county's finances.”