Houpt ready to get to work | PostIndependent.com

Houpt ready to get to work

Lynn Burton

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County Commissioner-elect Tresi Houpt will takes her place at the table Jan. 14 after serving seven years on the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District Board.

“So I’ve got a pretty thick skin,” said the Glenwood Springs Democrat Thursday.

Out-going Garfield County Commissioner Walt Stowe leaves office on Jan. 13 after one term, but he doesn’t rule out running for elected office again.

“I’m 47, so I’ve got a few more good years left in me,” Stowe said.

Houpt, who defeated Stowe in the Nov. 5 election, will be sworn in with other Garfield County officials in a ceremony at 9 a.m. on Jan. 14. She spent the past month attending county commissioner meetings, meeting county staffers and learning how the county operates.

“There’s a lot of studying to do before my first official meeting,” Houpt said on her cell phone, as she drove down Four Mile to meet a friend for coffee in Glenwood Springs Thursday afternoon.

During her campaign, Houpt said the county should hire a liaison between residents and the oil and gas industry. The commissioners recently approved a part time liaison, called a local government designee, in the 2003 budget, so drafting a job description for that new staffer is high in Houpt’s early priorities.

“I’d like to talk about the role of the oil and gas designee,” she said.

Another campaign position was building better relationships with other counties and communities. “I’d like to see us become a regional leader,” Houpt continued.

Houpt said her years on the school board gave her a lot of experience in complex issues such as budgeting, and also an appreciation of how elected boards should view their public trust.

“We’re stewards of public assets,” Houpt said. “We’re policy makers.”

She has faced crowded rooms during public hearings, when no matter what the outcome, half the people sometimes walk away unhappy.

“Listening to understand is the key to public hearings,” she said. “I’ve learned this by serving on the school board.”

Some of Houpt’s listening in the next four years will come person to person, and over the phone and through e-mail, at her office at the Garfield County Courthouse Plaza. “I’ll be there every day,” she said.

Houpt has been itching to get into the action as she has sat in the audience at recent county commissioner meetings. She’s also looking forward to getting out to meet and talk to county employees, the public and town officials.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know Larry and John,” she said of incumbent Commissioners Larry McCown and John Martin.

Walt Stowe said he’ll most miss the people he has gotten to know during the past four years. “The county administration and staff has been great,” Stowe said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”

Stowe said he’ll also miss “being in the know” and helping to shape Garfield County’s future.

During Stowe’s four-year term, Garfield County built a new jail, committed to $16 million in county airport improvements, and initiated a policy that requires some deed restricted affordable housing in new developments.

As a first-time elected official, one thing that surprised Stowe was the amount of time commissioners and city council members put into their jobs. “A lot of the work they do isn’t seen by the general public,” Stowe said.

Stowe said he won’t miss the weekends spent with a notebook full of materials for Monday’s county commissioner meeting.

The notebook has been with Stowe in his home office, in front of the television during Denver Bronco football games, on airplanes and in other locales. “That notebook has been around a lot during the past four years,” he said.

Stowe said he may run for elected office “down the line,” but for the next few years will focus on family, and his roofing and mortgage companies.

“That’s what I’m going to work on right now,” he said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534


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