The oil and natural gas industry, intergovernmental relationships, and county personnel were among the topics addressed by political candidates Thursday night at The Center of Craig, 601 Yampa Ave.
More than 50 Craig and Moffat County residents attended the forum hosted by the Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots to hear five candidates vying for two Moffat County Commission seats outline their campaign platforms and field questions from a three-person panel and audience members.
Participating in the forum were District 1 candidates Dave DeRose, who is running as a Republican, and John Kinkaid, who is running unaffiliated.
Audrey Danner, Chuck Grobe and Rick Barnes also participated in the forum as Republican candidates for District 2.
Danner is the sole incumbent in the two races.
The forum led off with whether candidates are in favor of hiring a county manager, and if so, how could a salary package close to $250,000 be justified.
Grobe and DeRose, who have both held office in municipal governments that employed a city manager, said they were in favor of looking into the personnel addition because of the cohesion a permanent employee brings to an ever-changing board.
“That’s an option I wouldn’t have a problem looking at,” DeRose said. “I think it would free up a county commissioner to do more work at the state level because I happen to believe a county commissioner has a lot of sway.”
Danner and Barnes opposed the idea and spoke to the salary issue directly.
“Moffat County does not have a county manager and that is by choice,” Danner said. “We have looked at this option and consider we are paid to work this as a full-time job.”
Danner also said the current commissioners have adopted a strategic plan they adhere to in lieu of a county manager.
The looming oil and natural gas boom was also a popular topic throughout the evening.
Specifically, reducing environmental regulations and whether candidates opposed drilling in city limits.
“I’m not in favor of limiting drilling extensively, but we also need to follow environmental safeguards,” Grobe said. “But, the income coming into the property owners and ranchers is very important also.”
Kinkaid fielded the question differently. He emphasized Moffat County’s role in the larger scheme of eliminating the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
“It is my firm belief that current regulations are more than sufficient to give this country the oil and gas it needs to be energy independent,” Kinkaid said. “The United States Department of Energy was formed in the mid-1970s as a response to the Arab oil embargo. It has not lived up to its duties.”
With two former mayors in the candidate field — DeRose and Grobe — the issue of relationships between city and county governments was also raised.
When asked how he might improve relationships, Barnes answered the question with a question.
“Is that the City of Craig, the City of Hamilton, the City of Dinosaur or the City of Maybell?” Barnes said. “I think there needs to be relations with all four. There may not be as many votes in Hamilton or Dinosaur, but they’re just as important to this county and they still count.”
Next up on the campaign agenda is the Republican Party precinct caucuses scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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