Candidate Q&A: Tom Gray

What is your occupation, education and family?
A: After graduating from high school I moved to Moffat County in 1972. My wife, Brenda, and I were married and have raised three children here. The youngest is 23. In 1973 I founded and began operating a fencing business. The business did well and enabled us to purchase the ranch where we currently live. For the last 19 years I have been with Western Explosives Co., a supplier of explosives products and services.

Q: What qualifies you to be a county commissioner?
A: Involvement with my family for over 30 years in this community: 4-H, school, athletics, church, agriculture, mining, and recreation have given me experience working with people and a well rounded view of the community's needs and assets.
I know what it takes to run a business, and that a balanced budget needs to be balanced. Having been an employee and an employer I understand the perspective from both sides.

Q: What are three things you would like to accomplish if elected county commissioner?
A: Change the focus, get back to basics.
Fiscally this means: Balanced budgets -- watching trends and adjusting spending before it becomes a crisis. It means beginning to build capital reserves and contingency funds, the only way to anticipate downturns is to be prepared.
Practically it means working in cooperation with the City of Craig and, where possible, consolidate services to do away with duplication or just improve efficiencies. We all serve the same people in many areas.
A change of focus also means unifying the community. From elected officials, people expect sound management, level headed and informed decisions, steadfast character, and no personal agendas. This will build confidence and good will in the community. I look forward to being part of a new commission that works together, shares this common vision, is approachable, and listens. A change of focus means a change of faces.

Q: While balancing the 2004 budget, the commissioner board made some controversial decisions. Do you disagree with any of the cuts?
A: I don't disagree with the cuts. When you are out of money that's what you do, even though they hurt. What I do disagree with is the last four years of spending of reserves and not cutting back before the well went dry.

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: These are some of the positions we had when we got into trouble. (Although I don't lay all the responsibility there.) No, I wouldn't agree with that recommendation. We currently have some very capable people who have stepped up and are doing many of the duties of those positions. I do recognize we need more consistency, communication, and continuity between departments. But I think we can achieve these goals in other more economical ways.

Q: Would you advocate the creation of new tax districts for the library, parks and rec department, or weed and pest control?
A: There are already advocates for many things, all of which have some pros and cons. In these cases, a tax district would represent a tax increase to provide services already being paid for from current tax revenue. This increase would have to be approved by the voters. Rather than be an advocate, the main job of the commissioners is to manage taxes already collected in as efficient manner as possible, focusing on the things that benefit the most people. Then if those things are still in danger of being cut for lack of funds, those who are advocates can put it on the ballot and will have a better chance of getting approval.

What would you do to build morale among county employees?
A. Follow through on promises, listen to suggestions and concerns. Promote a compensation policy that is fair, recognizes achievements and service, and is understandable. Like all of us, they just want to know what is expected, what to expect, and to be treated with respect.

What would you do to manage energy development as the gas industry in Moffat County grows?
A. If the gas industry grows, the overall impact on the county will be positive and a needed shot in the arm economically. Private industry is the engine that drives our economy and I would work with them as much as possible. Laws that protect private property rights and the environment would of course need to be enforced.
Direct impacts to our infrastructure, such as increased truck traffic on county road, etc., would need to be compensated for.

Q. What separates you from Les Hampton?
A. I commend Les for running a positive campaign. I will do the same.
The positions we have taken on various issues, the philosophies we have expressed, and the areas we have chose to focus on, point out the major differences that distinguish us.
Les has four years experience with the county and the county has four years experience with him. The voters will decide if the experience is good or if they would like a change and a new direction.

You've voiced criticism of the county's fire plan. What parts of the plan do you agree and disagree with?
A. The first phase of the plan is complete and identified areas in the county at high risk for wildfire. Although I wouldn't have gone there, it's done now, and I would use that information to notify those who live in those areas and advise them that fuel loads are too high for normal fire fighting methods to be effective on your property, you should take precautions to protect it.
I think the implementation phase of the plan is an example of an area where government ought not go. This plan includes the county taking on the responsibility of reducing fuel loads (i.e. cutting fire breaks or providing the funding) in those areas identified as high risk areas for wildfire.
Once the county protects one person or small community in this way it becomes liable for protecting everyone's property in the same way. While grants are currently available to pay for the majority of the initial cost (several hundred thousand dollars), once this program is started it could be the proverbial "camel's nose under the tent" or just the start of what is to come.

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