Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said his homeland of Syria has no freedom, no democracy.
"I felt the only gift I can give the United States is to serve in politics and serve the citizens as best I can," he said, prefacing a Monday afternoon presentation on his re-election bid to the Moffat County Commission.
The American Association of Retired Persons Craig Chapter No. 1418 invited Moffat County Commission and 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office candidates to speak at its candidate forum Monday in preparation for the Nov. 4 general election.
Tayyara is running unopposed for his second term.
However, Commissioner Tom Gray, also running for his second term, faces Democratic challenger Lois Wymore. Both appeared Monday with Tayyara and Tammy Stewart, Democratic candidate for district attorney.
Elizabeth Oldham, Republican candidate for district attorney, was unable to attend.
Both Tayyara and Gray said they were proud of the budget changes they have helped make while in office for the past four years.
"Four years ago, this county faced some very real financial issues," Gray said. The current commission has done its best to change things for the better, he said.
Where there was once a budget deficit, now there is a reserve, Gray said.
He agreed with his opponent that Moffat County's economy is more fragile than others because of its dependence on the energy industry.
Thus, Gray added, a conservative approach and a dedication to saving a reserve fund are necessary.
Otherwise, he said, the county wouldn't be able to absorb a 5 percent revenue loss due to fluctuations in the energy market.
"As (Wymore) said, this county is very heavily financed by the energy industry," Gray said. "As we can see happening this year, we can have pretty large fluctuations in the county. Therefore, you need a savings account, just like at home."
He added he would encourage economic development by reducing any government barriers. The less dependent the county is on one industry, like the energy industry, the more secure it will be in the future.
That dependence also bothers Wymore, she said. The county should set economic diversity as a goal.
"If I had any criticism of the Commission, I think they need to support the (Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership) a lot more," Wymore said. "We have to be thinking outside of the box. We're going to have to work really hard to remain stable" given recent news about the national economy.
She added she would support tax incentives or tax credits if they made sense for the community.
Wymore also talked about social issues she said are "concerns" for her.
"We need to talk about things like homelessness here," she said. "Lots of teens homeless. There are a lot of things happening around here that people aren't aware of."
Youth were likewise a focal point of Stewart's presentation for her district attorney candidacy. She said that would be a new interest for the local prosecutor's office.
"That's not something you see now," she said. "It's not something you see with my opponent."
Stewart added that prosecutor turnover, drug distribution and community outreach would be her other priorities, if elected.