Garfield County commissioner candidates, in their words — Paula Stepp: people and communities first | PostIndependent.com

Garfield County commissioner candidates, in their words — Paula Stepp: people and communities first

Paula Stepp

Paula Stepp

The communities of Garfield County face common problems: access to affordable health care, affordable/attainable housing, adequate transportation throughout the county, affordable child care, protecting our environment and the health and safety of our citizens, and maintaining a stable economy despite fluctuations in the oil and gas industry due to price and production.

As a woman who has lived and worked and raised a family in this county, I've experienced how all of these issues impact us every day. With broader, inclusive representation, we can work together creating lasting and equitable solutions for a better economic future for our county.

During my campaign this year, I have traveled the county end to end, attending meetings and getting to know each community. I've grown fond and respectful of each. And I am committed to working in partnerships with our communities and districts.

In partnership, we can improve infrastructure that will open doors to new economic activity. In partnership, we can seek funding and grants. In partnership, we can improve roads benefiting citizens in incorporated and unincorporated areas. In partnership, we can aspire to connect all our communities in a trail system that will become a second artery of travel and recreation. In partnership, a Garfield County commissioner should be active on the RFTA board now.

My business experience will bring a fresh and dynamic perspective. Until launching my campaign this year, I was associate publisher for two outdoor magazines.

At these publications, we survived both the 2008 recession and a radical shift in the industry brought on by technology and the internet. Doing "business as usual" could lead only to failure.

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Instead, we learned, adapted and grew, working both in national and international markets. We had to embrace change and be quick to the market. In contrast, Garfield County was one of the last two Colorado counties to put a plan in place to expand and upgrade our internet connectivity and to apply for Colorado state grants.

Given our county's resources, we can be the leader in rural broadband, increasing productivity for governments, businesses and individuals. Broadband is as important in every facet of our lives in the 21st century as electricity was in the 20th century. As Garfield County commissioner my first goal will be to move forward as quickly as possible to have the best broadband in rural Colorado.

It is time for Garfield County to look toward a new economic base: supplying renewal energy to the energy grid; first in rural broadband to entice tech industries; creating communities that businesses want to invest in; supporting the emerging hemp market; and enticing businesses that work in and with the outdoor industry.

Proposition 112 on our November ballot is a polarizing issue. The current BOCC has strongly opposed this initiative that demands a 2,500-foot setback for oil and gas wells from buildings and vulnerable areas for new production. I am concerned the bigger setback will hurt those employed directly and indirectly by the gas industry, and it will cut tax revenue for our schools, libraries, fire districts, conservation groups, towns and other agencies.

But I also share the concerns of the initiative's supporters who are worried about their health and safety, personal property impacts and our environment. The current 500-foot setback from homes is not far enough. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission promises to first protect health and safety of our citizens, but they provide that oversight in different tiers. It makes no sense that a home is less important than a public building, which currently requires a 1,000-foot setback.

I will not advocate how you should vote on Proposition 112. A middle road is possible, one with equitable and reasonable incentives, laws and oversight. It is challenge that must be met in Garfield County and Colorado.

For generations Garfield County has relied on an immigrant population as part of our workforce and economy. Though immigration is under federal purview, we need a more effective policy with a foundation of respect for everyone and acknowledgment of these contributions. Importantly, here and now, immigrants should feel safe and have access to community services.

I firmly stand for DACA. In 2006, I began mentoring students in the Re-1 Precollegiate Program that supports students whose parents do not have college degrees. Following these students from seventh grade through high school graduation has shown me their hopes and fears. I want nothing more than for them to find their dreams and succeed.

And that is my desire for all of us and my goal as your Garfield County Commissioner.