Candidate Q&A: Les Hampton

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Q: What is your occupation, education and family?
A: Twice retired, I serve as your District 1 County Commissioner. I have a master's degree in business administration. There is just Bonnie and I, one old dog that we rescued from the pound, two cats that stopped by and never left, and four horses.

Q: What qualifies you to be a county commissioner?
A: I bring more than 40 years of working and 35 years of supervisory and management experience to this job. I have served this community in numerous volunteer roles for more than 10 years prior to my election. I have demonstrated my commitment to Moffat County through my support of service organizations and youth activities for 23 years. My history of personal, professional, and academic achievement equals or exceeds that of any candidate currently running, and I have served the people of Moffat County in this capacity since being sworn in, January 2001.

Q: What are the three things you would like to accomplish if elected county commissioner?
My focus is to create a working environment for all Moffat County employees that is personally rewarding, provides fair compensation, and the opportunity for each to contribute to the maximum of their individual ability.
We must continue to proactively manage our natural resources. This includes, but is not limited to, our game herds, species that are under the scrutiny of the national microscope such as the humpback chub, Colorado pike minnow, razorback sucker, bony tail, greater sage grouse, and most recently the migrating gray wolf. If we should fail to properly manage these natural resources, we may lose local control and use of our water and lands that we enjoy, work, and recreate in and on.
I would like to see Moffat County's economy regain strength. I believe the most likely source of this resurgence will come from the oil and gas industry. We must continue to work in partnership with the oil and gas companies to develop this natural resource. We must not lose focus while we are developing this resource; we must provide, protect, and improve the habitat. This focus and partnership is being established today, but work still needs to be done.

Q: While balancing the 2004 budget, the commissioner board made some controversial decisions. Do you disagree with any of the cuts that were made?
A: No, I do not disagree. These cuts were painful for all; that includes the three commissioners. We agonized over this budget, and each and every line item was reviewed numerous times. Dozens of "what-if" scenarios were discussed, department heads and elected officials of each affected area were brought in for consultation and advisement, and several services and budgets were extended beyond the January 1, 2004, date to allow for end-of-the-year figures to be finalized in the hope that some cuts would not have to be made. It is important to remember that we were in the process of restructuring the Public Safety Center certificates of participation. Had interference not occurred, we would have completed this restructuring plan and these budget cuts would not have been necessary.

Q: A financial analyst recently advised the commissioners to hire a county administrator and a public works director. Do you agree with these recommendations?
A: Before these positions can be considered, the board must be in support of these positions. Currently we do not have consensus. Yes, I believe the county could benefit from these positions; however, to fill these positions will require an annual expenditure of at least $200,000 for pay and benefits. If we were to even suggest carving an additional $200,000 out of the 2005 budget to pay for these positions, the controversy that we had last year would be minor in comparison. We must realize that these positions would not equate to a one-time expenditure, but must be budgeted for the long-term. This means that over 10 years the budget would be impacted by more than $2 million.

Q: Would you advocate the creation of new tax districts for the library, parks and recreation department, or weed and pest control, and why?
A: The creation of new districts requires additional funding; that means new or additional taxes. I am willing to have these discussions, but before any serious consideration is given or discussions of submitting a ballot question is made, I would insist upon holding public meetings to measure the support or opposition within our community on this topic. Any discussion of increasing taxes among elected officials is a slippery slope.

Q: If the county's financial situation improves, what would you do with the additional money?
A: The first thing we must do is to increase employee compensation. Our employees did not receive pay raises in 2004; this must be corrected.

Q: What role do you think the recent campaign to recall you and Marianna Raftopoulos will play in the election?
A: I have no idea. I placed my trust in the people of Moffat County to recognize that the recall was unfounded and without merit. The people saw through the recall issue as a personal attack on Marianna and I. During the recall Marianna and I focused on the business of the county. We conducted ourselves in the manner that we thought best represented the people of Moffat County. Marianna and I have been complimented for our conduct and demeanor during this unfortunate and unnecessary issue. Did either of us get soiled in this process? I don't know, we'll all just have to wait and see.

Q: What would you do to manage energy development as the gas industry in Moffat County grows?
A: We have already started this process. We have opened the lines of communication by welcoming those companies that have interests in Moffat County. Because of this invitation to join our community, several of the oil and gas companies have assumed roles in our community by joining the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership, and by participating in the Northwest Colorado Stewardship. It is clear that oil and gas companies recognize that partnering and creating relationships within the communities that they operate in is critical to their long-term success. The industry recognizes that one mode of operation will not work across varying landscapes. Counties have different issues and landscapes, and these differences require different approaches. Our conversations with these O&G companies reveal that they are interested in using different methods and approaches to preserve and improve important habitat.

Q: If you could change one action of the commissioner board during the last four years, what would it be?
A: I have worked with two different boards over the last three and a half years. I can state with full confidence that the commissioners that I have served with came with one agenda, it was to serve the people of Moffat County. The commissioners may not always fully agree at the onset of each issue; however, they continue the discussions until a reasonable alternative is found. Once the board finds that compromise and the decision is made, regardless if the vote is a unanimous or a majority vote, it is my responsibility to support that decision. I think the real question should be is there anything that we can do better? We view our process as open and transparent and one that provides information and answers to questions, but we must be more proactive in disseminating this information of interest. We are currently improving this process by establishing the Citizens' Budget Advisory Board. We are also in the process of identifying and establishing what I refer to as the Top 100. The Top 100 is a group of interested and influential community leaders that will be placed on an e-mail list that will receive direct updates and progress reports on county issues, financial updates, and general items of interest. We have in the past believed that this communication was accomplished via the different media reports. It is apparent to me that the commissioners must be more proactive in communicating directly to our citizens. It is our hope that, through this direct communication, spin and personal interpretation will be minimized or offset.

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