Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars announced Saturday that she will run for the Garfield County Board of Commissioners, challenging current Chairman John Martin for his District 2 seat.
Byars, 40, said she is running to focus on environmental sustainability, protecting natural resources and “healing the political divisions that have kept people from working together.”
“I want to run for Garfield County commissioner to bring the county together, so that we can put aside our differences and collaborate on solutions for the future,” Byars said.
As a native to Garfield County and now a resident of Glenwood Springs, Byars has a close connection to many communities and the surrounding environment.
Byars went to school in Garfield County, and received her degree in sustainability studies from Colorado Mountain College. She recently completed her master’s degree in legal studies at the Sturm College of Law at Denver University.
She also founded Sustainable Planning and Development, a nonprofit that is about to launch a sustainability journal.
Byars served most of one term on the Carbondale Board of Trustees, resigning in 2017 to move to Glenwood Springs after struggling to find housing in Carbondale. She also ran for Carbondale mayor in 2016.
Byars has worked on several projects with the county, including the Garfield County clean energy plan, but said she thinks it’s time for new voices leading the county.
“While I personally respect the service of our sitting Garfield County commissioners, I don’t feel that they always represent the range of diverse opinions and people in this county. I think I could do that better,” she said.
Announcing her candidacy at the Garfield County Democrats’ Martin Luther King Day dinner, Byars said she was unaffiliated until a few months ago.
Byars believes the slowness to change is due in part to the longevity of Martin’s tenure.
“When a leadership role is held by a single person for decades, it can be difficult for things to change. My opponent, who I have a great deal of respect for, has been serving for almost a quarter of a century and it’s time for a changing of the guards,” Byars said.
More than half of Garfield County’s current budget comes from property taxes from the oil and gas industry, a reality that Byars recognizes.
“The appropriate level of oil and gas extraction in Garfield County or anywhere is one that protects human health and water quality, while providing the resource. I don’t think that is what has happened up to this point,”
One area Byars would like to focus on is protecting waterways, and restoring any streams that have been contaminated.
“I have friends and family in Rifle that don’t drink out of their tap because they don’t trust their tap water,” she said.
Starting with the county party assembly process this spring, Garfield County Democrats and Republicans will each formally nominate candidates to run for both the District 2 commissioner seat and the District 3 seat currently held by incumbent Republican Mike Samson of Rifle.