Prehm decision, oil and gas liaison stance tipped scales in Houpt’s favor
Tresi Houpt and Walt Stowe agree two issues played a big role in Houpt’s 757-vote margin of victory in Tuesday’s Garfield County Commissioner election.
The first issue was Stowe’s vote to vacate the mile-long Prehm Ranch Road south of Glenwood Springs earlier this year, a vote that Houpt opposed.
“Maybe the Prehm issue was bigger than I thought,” said Stowe, who will continue to serve as commissioner until Houpt takes office on Jan. 14.
The second issue was the creation of a full-time county position to act as liaison between the county, residents, and the oil and gas industry. Houpt supports the position, while Stowe has voted against it.
“Both of those issues were very important,” Houpt said. “Both of those issues carried weight.”
Houpt, a Democrat, defeated Stowe, a Republican, 7,112-6,355, for a 53-47 percent split.
Houpt’s platform called for Garfield County to work more closely with neighboring communities for better regional planning and partnerships, and for a stronger emphasis on the county adopting strategies outlined in Colorado’s Smart Growth Initiative.
“People supported that,” Houpt said.
Houpt, who plans to work as a full-time commissioner, said she wants the county to start working to build regional partnerships, and create “coalition opportunities” with towns and other counties in areas of mutual concern.
She also wants to open up county commissioner meetings and make government more accessible.
“That was a concern people had,” Houpt said. “They want it to be more user friendly.”
She also wants to create more dialogue between the commissioners and Garfield County residents, so they understand how the process works.
“Every decision the commissioners make has an impact on the county,” Houpt said.
Between now and Jan. 14, Houpt said she will resign from the Roaring Fork Re-1 School Board, a seat she has held for seven years, and also step down as director of the nonprofit Valley Resource Management.
“But I will make sure those organizations are well situated before I leave,” she said.
Stowe was shooting for his second four-year term as county commissioner. When asked what’s changed in Garfield County in the past four years, Stowe paused and said he wasn’t sure.
Then he pointed to residents who want the full-time oil and gas industry liaison, and said, “People might want to increase the size of government. I believed in as small a government as possible.”
Stowe said he’s not sure what he’ll do next.
“But I’ll enjoy not seeing my name in the paper,” he said.
Garfield County has a history of electing more Republicans than Democrats as county commissioners.
Garfield County Democratic Chairwoman Leslie Robinson said she’s “ecstatic” about Houpt’s win.
“She ran a great race,” Robinson said.
When asked about the election results, Robinson mentioned the sheriff’s contest between incumbent Democrat Tom Dalessandri and Republican Lou Vallario.
“The Republicans thought Walt was a shoe-in, so they took pot shots at Tom. They forgot about their man Walt,” Robinson said.
Robinson is already psyched up for the 2004 county commissioner election. “We’re hoping that in two more years, we’ll have two more seats,” she said.
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