John Acha joins commissioner race
Running as a Democrat, John Acha, from New Castle, has joined the Garfield County commissioner race for District 2, long held by Commissioner John Martin.
Acha, who made his career as a construction contractor in the U.S. Air Force and later with NATO, has for the last 17 years been running his own company, Action Estimating.
In the months leading up to the election, he expects several key issues to shape the campaign: residential safety around oil and gas development, diversifying jobs, improving public transportation options and the inevitable specter of affordable housing.
Acha would run against the winner of the Republican primary, in which 20-year incumbent Martin faces Silt Town Councilman Aron Diaz.
“Petroleum is inevitably going to become the energy of the past,” Acha said. In the meantime it’s a necessity, but the extraction of these resources needs to be done with residents’ safety as a top priority.
“People with mineral rights have every right to extract that property, but it can’t hamper residents’ safety and wellbeing.” When the oil and gas industries continually ask residents to lower their standards of living, the answer should be “up yours,” said Acha.
“The state already has laws to ensure that these resources are extracted safely and economically, so we need to adhere to them.”
The candidate said the county’s employment environment, including for oil and gas workers, has been a merry-go-round that county leaders must convert into long-term employment options.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a job corps program that Acha talked of bringing to Rifle. Oil and gas workers could be retrained for construction, and Garfield County offers “a Harvard education in construction.”
“Rather than reaching into other areas for our workers, we can use the assets we’ve already got.”
Union Pacific Railroad and the area’s hospitals also have a lot to offer in the area, and the county should focus on making training for those industries available to young people, he said.
Acha would also push for the commissioners to reorganize the county’s public transportation resources for a more efficient system that more people would use.
“The topography of the county makes access more of an issue for some people, and we can better facilitate the needs of Garfield County citizens by providing alternative transportation.”
Working for the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo, he was assigned to a similar project to streamline the base’s public transportation program and increase ridership.
To improve the county’s affordable housing options, Acha proposes using contacts he’s developed over his career and his knowledge of alternative construction applications that make building less expensive. “But we’ll have to be open-minded about what we’re willing to let come in.”
Acha said that part of his life philosophy comes from a saying he learned in Tokyo: before people can walk all over you, you have to be willing to lay down.
“I’m not afraid to take on anyone and stand up for what’s right.”