Commissioners Gray, Danner discuss their terms in office

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Audrey Danner

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Tom Gray

On Monday the Moffat County Commission is hosting a short meeting to address two business items that can’t wait until after the New Year.

The commissioners are scheduled to reconvene Wednesday for a more typical meeting. For two current commissioners it will be their last meeting as an elected county official.

Last week Commissioners Audrey Danner and Tom Gray spoke with the Craig Daily Press about their goals coming into office, the state of the county, and how they were influenced by past commissioners.

Craig Daily Press: What were your goals coming into office?

Audrey Danner: I said I would be a voice for citizens, help prioritize services, manage natural resources, and build partnerships for effective means of delivering county services to make Moffat County a wonderful place to live.

Tom Gray: I ran on an overall back to basics, sound fiscal management platform and I guess my goals were pretty broad, but I wanted to promote a philosophy that recognized private enterprise, not government, as the engine that drives the economy. Thomas Jefferson was quoted, “history has shown that as government grows, freedom decreases,” and I just wanted to resist that.

CDP: What goals were you able to accomplish?

AD: With being appointed, I came in within a matter of a week or 10 days, but after working in the job for several months I was able to initiate and we approved a strategic plan for the future in June 2011. With the help from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, not money, we were able to identify efficiencies in seven county departments to make those departments more in line with our strategic plan for the future.

TG: I held to my core philosophy and I feel I moved the ball in that direction.

CDP: What goals fell short?

AD: I wouldn’t say we fell short, but broadband and off highway vehicle mapping are still in progress, and I think those goals will be realized in the future. I’m excited to see how those two things progress and what they are able to do for the local economy.

TG: I learned that the wheels turn pretty slow and that you can change some courses, but I came in with some broad philosophical goals. I didn’t say, “I’m going to build a new courthouse,” and then I didn’t get it done. I’m a small government guy and I came in with the philosophy of not letting government grow.

CDP: What was the state of the county coming in to your first term?

AD: The national economic crisis of 2008 was just becoming a reality, and that required careful budgeting and conservative planning because we did not know what the future would hold.

TG: Finances were tight and there were no reserves. In general, maintenance had fallen behind schedule, and in regards to (road) paving, we weren’t sure if we would ever be able to catch back up. I’m not solely taking credit that we’ve been able to get a lot of maintenance back on schedule, but I do look at where we are now as an accomplishment.

CDP: What do you think the state of the county is now?

AD: The strategic planning document is a tool the new commissioners can use for the future to plan for to provide the services the public wants. I know we have a budget that has adequate reserves and that the budget is healthy enough to provide the infrastructure needs of the county. We’ve also been successful in improving efficiencies in how the government operates and provides services.

TG: We’re stable, maintenance is back on schedule and we have 30 percent reserves across all funds. I think the new commissioners will be able to focus on what their new goals are and not have to spend time trying to fix what we’ve left them.

CDP: What are your personal views of the job, in other words were the duties and demands of the job what you expected? Were there any implications on your family?

AD: It was an extraordinary job experience. I absolutely loved it. The challenges that came before us each week and each month were so unique in the sense that they all tied to the wheels that make government and its citizens function well together.

TG: I don’t think you ever know what to expect when you start a new job. I expected it to be a full-time job, and it is, I wanted it to be because I wanted to put my whole self into it. Elected office can be stressful and that certainly has an affect on your whole family.

CDP: You both hold Saed Tayyara in high regard. Did he have any influence over how you approached the job?

AD: I knew Saed and he had his own style of decision making, and had his own group of friends he confided in, which is different from my style of decision making. But I have always had a great appreciation of past county commissioners. I have great respect for past county commissioners and used many of them as resources, including Marianna Raftopoulos.

TG: Everyone does have an affect on you and I didn’t know Saed personally before we both elected at the same time. Saed became a good friend and you couldn’t be around Saed without absorbing some of his dedication, work ethic and love for this community. He was an inspiration from that perspective.

CDP: What are your feelings about some recent topics covered by the commission?

AD: In regards to our recent passage of certain tax exemptions I certainly believe in the concept of tax abatements, but that is also how our government runs. We need to be careful on how we continue to address those in the future.

TG: The sales tax exemptions on such broad things such as food and utilities are a good way for the government to reduce its impact on all citizens equally, and I think we can afford it. I’m comfortable with the current state of the county budget and we’ve got the last of the major projects on schedule, like Shadow Mountain improvements, which has been on the table when I first started.

CDP: You also have seen some things happen during your time at the state level. Which one or two events have had or will have the biggest positive or negative impact on the county?

AD: House Bill 10-1365 is going to be an issue for our natural resource operators including Trapper Mine and Colowyo, and although the Sage-grouse isn’t apart of HB10-1365, it’s another example of a strike against our natural resources that’s going to need our continued attention. I also believe the partnerships we have developed with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and broadband providers as key to economic development.

TG: House Bill 10-1365, not only what it did, but the way it came about, was unethical. The pros and the cons were not properly vetted. The state also passed the 30 percent renewable fuels mandate, and those two have and will continue to have major negative impacts on Moffat County’s economy.

CDP: The county has filled, replaced or created a number of high-level positions in county government. Explain some of the hiring decisions made recently.

AD: Roy Tipton was the right choice to manage our planning and building departments to get projects completed in accordance with our strategic plan, and I think Rebecca Tyree, county attorney; Mindy Curtis, the finance director; and Kerri Klein, social services are all going to do well and continue to do well in their capacities.

TG: There were a lot of good people who retired, or otherwise moved on. We think they’re all good quality people and we wouldn’t have hired them if we didn’t think they were going to do a good job.

CDP: Is the county going to be in good hands with the two new incoming commissioners Chuck Grobe and John Kinkaid?

AD: Oh certainly. I believe each commissioner that comes in relies on the good work of previous commissioners.

TG: Good government happens when good people step up, and these are good people.

CDP: What are you going to do next?

AD: I’m keeping my options open. I have not made any decisions yet whatsoever.

TG: It’s going to be different because I believe a change is as good as anything. I’m going to be looking for something where I think I can make a difference, but I’m not sure what that is yet.

— Interview by Joe Moylan, Craig Daily Press

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