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Local election will have lasting impact

About the Race

John Martin, a three-term Republican county commissioner, is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger Stephen Bershenyi in the District 2 Commissioner race. In 2004, Martin staved off a challenge from Democrat Greg Jeung. Although Bershenyi and Martin are running in the District 2 race, all residents in the county can vote in this race. Here are the two men’s thoughts on the issues facing the county:

Name: John Martin



Age: 59

Party Affiliation: Republican



Occupation: Garfield County commissioner

Education: Salida High School, Southern Colorado State College, Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Law Enforcement Academy, the “School of Hard Knocks.”

What are the top three issues facing the county?

1) Economy

2) Environment

3) Respect

Q. Energy companies are expected to drill about 1,000 new wells each year in the county until 2015, according to a recent report. How must the county cope with that development?

Continue to work with county staff, improve their education and abilities. Continue to refine land use, code enforcement, planning, finance, administration, law enforcement, health and environment and road and bridge.

To continue to work closely with other elected officials of the county, state and federal governments. Continue to strengthen the contacts with citizens of Garfield County. Continue to communicate with energy companies and mineral right holders. Continue to promote safer and more environmentally friendly methods of extraction. We have done a great deal and will continue to do more.

Q. What is your view on affordable housing in the county? Does the county need higher affordable housing requirements for any new development?

If housing for working people and their families with an income less than 80 percent of the area’s median income is to be the definition of “affordable housing,” then it will take communities working with other governments and private developers with a strong housing authority to accomplish this goal.

Mixed neighborhood, built-in municipalities allow home renters and owners to live in the communities in which they work. This would be a success. If units are just built in Garfield County to store workers for outside communities to ensure their available work force, then we are not doing anyone justice.

Housing in subdivisions and planned unit developments should have at least 15 percent mixed neighborhood affordable rentals as well as affordable units for sale. We should also allow and promote already built units to be purchased as affordable units by a central housing authority and made available for immediate resale or rentals, continuing what Garfield County is doing today.

Q. With the economy in stress, many seniors on fixed incomes in the area may be facing large challenges. What should the county do to assist them?

Currently Garfield County is the lead agency in providing transportation and nutrition with (its) senior programs. We work with seniors and their programs to improve where they request improvements and to provide funds to lessen their costs and promote their health.

Garfield County works with (Colorado Mountain College) to help seniors continue their education and mobility, which adds to their self-worth through contributions to each other and their communities. We respect seniors’ views and ideas.

We must work with other governments and private businesses to provide senior communities within our larger communities, not to isolate seniors, but to enhance their lives. We must prioritize our dollars within our working budget to assist our cherished citizens and not treat them as a mere line item (in) our budget.

Q. What are your thoughts on the relationship between the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and Garfield County?

Garfield County has taken a business approach to RFTA, unlike other governments. We feel contracts with performance requirements and defined services is better than joining an organization from which you can never escape, in good or bad economic times. Our contract with RFTA has been signed and improved upon each year.

These services are paid with monies from “non tax” sources, as the citizens in the unincorporated area of Garfield County voted not to join and levy taxes on themselves. By working with RFTA, Garfield County has increased the bus service from Rifle to Glenwood Springs.

Garfield County also has contributed $300,000 for (RFTA’s) Rapid Bus system study and given the $200,000 match for the required match for a replacement bus grant for two new buses to be used on the (Grand) Hogback services.

Asked if there was any outstanding issue or unresolved issues between Garfield County and RFTA, director Dan Blankenship answered “No, it’s always easy working with Garfield County.” Garfield County has also assisted with the prize-winning trail system built by RFTA, which largely runs through Garfield County.

Q. Has the Garfield County commission made a decision this year that you would like to see overturned?

Yes, the approval of the 350-plus lot gated planned unit development in Spring Valley. I voted against this development but lost by a two-to-one vote. I still feel this type of development is the wrong approach for Garfield County.

Q. What is your vision for future growth and development in the county? Where should it be limited? Where should it be encouraged?

Garfield County will grow to nearly 100,000 people in the next 20 years, according to the regional planning experts. Most of the growth will take place outside of the municipalities due to the approach of the municipalities in their development and building governing codes.

The Garfield County Master Plan, drawn up by its citizens and created by the Planning and Zoning Board, identifies the areas able to be receivers of needed growth, as well as accepted growth. The Board of Commissioners approves the rules, which govern the zoning areas.

Working together with all municipalities and surrounding counties and including (the) development community is a must to direct and accept this inevitable growth.

Q. What are the most significant issues, except for energy development and affordable housing, that Garfield county faces? How would you propose solving them?

Respect for one another. Show some willingness to hear others’ points of view or ideas not their own. Some point at others with blame but take no responsibility for their own actions. Some are too willing to polarize issues and not take time to find common ground. Some still believe it’s their way or no way. We must have leadership without overblown egos.

I offer leadership, experience, patience, understanding and the willingness to overcome our challenges with common sense and respect.

Q. Why should voters elect you as a county commissioner?

Understanding the workings of Garfield County and other governments, organizations and all the many duties of the office of a county commissioner is a steep learning curve.

I offer 12 years of job experience, leading by example and results. I have led a team of dedicated co-workers of a county which was below the radar screen when I took office to placement in the top 30 counties in the nation. Our budgeting process is now cutting edge.

I use a business approach and apply it to local government to save millions of dollars. I have worked to upgrade offices and buildings, the landfill and roads. I have pushed to mainstream our regional airport. I have invested in employee training, education and wages, worked on revamping employee evaluations and customer relations.

I have controlled spending and have been able to place millions of dollars in reserve for our future. The interest on those reserves are being leveraged to fund senior programs, trails, bus service, grants to local municipalities, and programs that invest in our citizens’ well being, and most importantly, have not created any new taxes or obligations on the citizens’ future.

Years of experience in law enforcement prepared me to make hard choices, seek out facts and apply rules fairly and without bias. My personal life has given me experience in historic preservation, agriculture, business, affordable housing, social programs and the value of trust.

Name: Stephen Bershenyi

Age: 60

Party affiliation: Democrat

Occupation: Self-employed artist-blacksmith.

Education: Received degrees in English literature and German language from the University of Colorado.

What are the top three issues facing the county?

1) Energy industry activity and impacts

2) Growth how we plan for it and manage it

3) Affordable housing ” putting it in place in enough quantity

Energy companies are expected to drill about 1,000 new wells each year in the county until 2015, according to a recent report. How must the county cope with that development?

I believe that Garfield County must engage in a firm and thorough conversation with the gas Industry to let them know exactly what we expect them to do going forward with energy development in Garfield County.

The industry must meet our expectations with regard to using only the latest drilling technology and employing the highest and best practices of the industry in exploration, drilling, completion, production and in reclamation of the landscape. These requirements must be firm and fair and administered evenhandedly.

If they are, Garfield County will work with industry to help them be successful in achieving their goals.

What is your view on affordable housing in the county? Does the county need higher affordable housing requirements for any new development?

Recently, the Garfield Planning and Zoning Commission revised the new land use regulations to put in place a fifteen-percent affordable housing requirement on all planned unit developments of five or more units.

I applaud this as a good starting point. As we confront the growth issues before us, we need to insist that this requirement be satisfied and remain a part of each development and that affordable housing be built concurrently with the free market portion of each development. This policy should be reviewed regularly to assure that our goals are adequate and that they are being adhered to.

With the economy in stress, many seniors on fixed incomes in the area may be facing large challenges. What should the county do to assist them?

Garfield County must be prepared to expand its Human Services to help fixed income seniors in our county continue to have the ability to enjoy a high level of quality of life. As we move through this national crisis, we may have the need to expand Meals-on-Wheels, home health care visits and perhaps look at how we can mount a cooperative effort with the municipalities to help fixed income seniors pay rent, home heating costs and meet other basic monthly expenses.

Seniors are a vibrant and important part of our communities and our county, and we must not turn our back on their very real needs.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Garfield County?

I believe that Garfield County should join the board of RFTA. How we negotiate that process is important in that we should receive assurances up front about preserving our option to assess that commitment each year and insist on board membership being more flexible. If we as a county are not part of the board, we have no real voice in shaping the future of mass transit in Garfield County.

Has the Garfield County commission made a decision this year that you would like to see overturned?

The Garfield County Commission has made several bad decisions this year. At the top of that list is the decision to offer a “use-by-right” to the gas industry to place eight man mini man camps on private property without a special use permit. This decision does not meet the test of essential fairness.

If a local rancher decided that instead of buying new haying equipment, he would hire a custom processor to put up his hay, and the processor wanted to place a mini man camp on his ranch for his crew, the county would require that rancher to meet all of the requirements for a special use permit. This rule should apply to all in the county or to none. It should be repealed.

What is your vision for future growth and development in the county? Where should it be limited? Where should it be encouraged?

Garfield County should have long ago taken stock of future growth and a clear and far-sighted vision of what that growth should look like. Growth needs to occur contiguous to existing municipal infrastructure and should be coordinated with the municipalities in order to foster their municipal vision of growth.

The growth we are going to experience in Garfield County over the next 20 years should and will happen in and around the present boundaries of our towns and cities. Garfield County has an obligation to all of its citizens to help plan and direct growth to those areas identified by our communities as desirable. Further, Garfield County must encourage all new development to be transit oriented to maximize our ability to move the most people in the most efficient way as we continue to grow.

What are the most significant issues, except for energy development and affordable housing, that this county faces? How would you propose solving them?

Open space preservation is a huge issue for me as a citizen of Garfield County. I believe that we must lead the way in bringing county resources to this effort in order to attract funding from philanthropic organizations, outdoorsman’s groups, conservation groups and others interested in preserving our western heritage and our western landscape.

We should explore additional avenues of thought about how best to accomplish this worthy goal.

Of greatest importance to all of us is safeguarding the quality of our air and the purity and adequacy of our water. If the air we all breathe is compromised, or if we cannot trust that the water that we drink is safe, all of us have lost the very foundation of our quality of life. Every important part of that effort is protecting and preserving our environment from which all things begin.

Why should the county voters elect you as a county commissioner?

I believe that Garfield County is ready for a new county commissioner in District 2. I am running to give Garfield County citizens a clear choice to elect Stephen Bershenyi to represent them. I pledge to all citizens of Garfield County that I will never forget that you are my boss, and that I work for you and your interests alone.

You will always come first with me and you will always be welcomed into the discussion of the issues, which we all face. You may not always get the vote you desire, but you will always be given a voice in shaping the decisions, which I am called upon to make in your behalf. For these reasons, I am asking you, the citizens of Garfield County to bestow on me the great privilege and high honor of serving you as your District 2 county commissioner.


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