As I wrote last week, Garfield County is lucky to have knowledgeable candidates for the two county commissioner districts on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
Last week, I said I felt John Martin was best for the county in District 2. Today, let's take a look at the District 3 candidates, Republican incumbent Mike Samson and Democratic challenger Aleks Briedis.
First of all, they're both Rifle boys, so that's a tie.
Seriously, Samson is seeking his second four-year term and takes credit for helping improve communication between the county and the six municipalities in its borders. I can't speak of any firsthand knowledge where that isn't the case, but will add that local government entities always seem to get into "turf battles" and squabbles. It's pretty much the nature of the beast. So to draw from Samson's statements that everything is blue skies and rainbows is something I'm sure he realizes is not the case.
Otherwise, Samson, a likable, smart and humble man, has been taken to task by Briedis and residents over some of his stances and votes on various issues. Usually in lock step with his two GOP compatriots on the board, Martin and Tom Jankovsky.
He has admitted mistakes were made when the commissioners met in secret with energy industry officials to craft a resolution dealing with oil shale they later rescinded. But many, myself included, tend to put more stock in the ability of elected officials to avoid mistakes, instead of admit they were made in the first place and have to correct them.
Briedis, a 13-year Rifle resident, heads up the city's recreation department and has used a goal of making the county the healthiest in the state one of his campaign promises. I wholeheartedly endorse that goal, but wonder what county government can do to help people get healthier. That seems like a personal choice to me, too.
Further, though, Briedis strikes me as intelligent, willing to consider other opinions and perhaps a bit more visionary than Samson. For example, Briedis notes the energy industry will always be around these parts, but that other industries, like outdoor recreation, tourism, alternative energy companies, and sustainable agriculture can help diversify the local economy.
His website says he will "Allocate solid investments in infrastructure to improve conservation, green building opportunities, and construction opportunities for our labor force." Sounds like a good strategy to me. The world is changing, and the county either changes with it, or we'll be left behind.
I was disappointed Briedis (along with Samson, Martin and his opponent, Sonja Linman) said he would not likely be in favor of using any of the county's $100 million in reserves to help decrease water rates in Rifle by pitching in towards a new water treatment plant. Isn't a water plant considered infrastructure, just like roads and bridges?
Bottom line: Mike Samson is a good man, he's educated many folks in Rifle and has served well. But Aleks Briedis is best for Garfield County.
- Mike McKibbin