Garfield County District 2 commissioner race plays ‘new ideas’ vs. no to ‘new social order’ | PostIndependent.com
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Garfield County District 2 commissioner race plays ‘new ideas’ vs. no to ‘new social order’

Changing times require new leadership, said Beatriz Soto, the Democrat challenging for the Garfield County commissioner seat held for 24 years by Republican John Martin.

“I thank John Martin for his service,” Soto said when the question of Martin’s long tenure came up during the Oct. 14 Issues & Answers Forum.

“But I think we should not have career politicians at a local level. … I do believe it’s time for new leadership, for new ideas and for new representation in Garfield County,” she said.

Responding to the question of whether it’s time for a change in county government, Martin said not the kind of change Soto proposes.

“I have been a mentor for 24 years … bringing issues to bear,” Martin said. “I want people to be involved and to be informed.

“People do wish to step forward, but they are waiting,” Martin said of would-be successors within the local Republican Party. “But they know at this present time that there is tremendous pressure to keep our present way of life. They are not ready, and not acceptable to a new social order.”

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Martin said that touches on everything from stewardship of county finances and preserving the revenues the oil and gas revenue brings in to diversifying the county’s economy and addressing housing needs — all topics that came up during the election forum.

A third candidate in the District 2 race, Brian Bark (unaffiliated) was unable to participate in the forum.

Co-sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, the Post Independent and KMTS radio, the forum included a mix of candidates and representatives discussing ballot questions both in person at the debate venue and online via Zoom.

Watch the full Issues and Answers Forum below:

Soto took Martin to task for the commissioners’ decision to spend $1.5 million in oil and gas mitigation funds to protect industry interests as the state writes new oil and gas rules in implementing Senate Bill 181. Oil and gas issues also dominated the debate between District 3 Commissioner Mike Samson and challenger Leslie Robinson.

“What’s happening is we’ve not diversified our economy to where we are not as reliant on this one single industry,” Soto said. “Continuing to invest in a bridge industry that we are supposed to move away from, … that is not the best use of our resources.”

Beatriz Soto, candidate for Garfield County commissioner.
Sierra Jeter photo

Soto noted that only 3% of jobs in Garfield County are in the oil and gas industry, but Martin pointed to the multiplier effect of that.

“It’s 20 percent of our economy, not 3 percent,” Martin said. “There’s a ripple effect to everyone when they’re buying a car, buying groceries, to paying your mortgage. Those jobs are important, as well, and we have to fight for that.”

Martin said it costs money to have expert voices at the table when the new oil and gas regulations are being discussed and decided upon.

Soto said that money would be better spent on economic development efforts aside from oil and gas.

“We don’t have people tasked just to do that,” said Soto, suggesting the formation of an economic development office. An advisory council, such as the county has, and designation of enterprise and opportunity zones are great, she said, adding they need to be marketed better.

The county should also consider borrowing money for various capital projects as a way to keep the economy ticking, Soto said.

“We are at a period in time where borrowing money at really low interest rates is something to consider. That’s something I would like to explore, and see if it’s viable,” she said.

Martin said the county has built the economy aside from oil and gas, investing in the Rifle-Garfield County Airport, the Center For Excellence that is based there and turning the county landfill into an enterprise fund.

“All of that drives other businesses,” he said, adding that the county is not in a position to fund an economic development department.

“I have a simple calling that’s not driven by politics or an over-stimulated ego,” Martin said in his closing statement.

“I believe citizens want that kind of government and are not ready to move over to a progressive, heavy-handed government,” he said.

Soto countered that not all of the voices in Garfield County are being heard or represented by the county commissioners.

“I want to bring innovative ideas to our county government,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard to include the people who have historically not been involved in shaping the future of our community … from our young farmers, to entrepreneurs, to incredibly talented young professionals, to our immigrant community … to build an economy that works for all of us.”

jstroud@postindependent.com


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