City of Craig 2015 biennial elections guide | CraigDailyPress.com

City of Craig 2015 biennial elections guide

Voters to choose new mayor, city council members

Janelle O'Dea

City of Craig 2015 biennial elections guide

— The city of Craig election is underway, and come April 7, residents could see some new faces on city council.

Considering the number of candidates vying for spots in this year's election, it's clear that people want to be involved in their city government.

In fact, more candidates are running for seats on Craig City Council this year than in the last six elections dating back to 2003. A total of seven candidates are running for four seats. Jarrod Ogden and Tony Bohrer will keep their spots on council this time around and current council members Ray Beck and Don Jones will run against each other for the mayor’s seat.

Both the mayoral race and city council race are non-partisan; meaning candidates are not required to identify with a party.

Over the past month, the Craig Daily Press sat down individually with the Craig City Council candidates and both City of Craig mayor candidates and asked them the following six questions:

1) What do you think is the biggest issue facing Craig right now?

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2) How will you help the city stay out of the red?

3) How will you help the Craig community adapt to the regulations that come from the Environmental Protection Agency?

4) What will you do to help the school district in this time of budget crisis?

5) What will you do to help fill the more than 200,000 square feet of open commercial space in Craig?

6) Each candidate was also asked an individual question.

City of Craig mayor candidates

Don Jones

Current occupation: Co-owner of Craig Steel

Family: Don lives in Craig with his wife, Jean. Don is the father of two boys: Don and Chris; and Jean has one son, Scott. They have six grandchildren altogether, four of whom live in Craig.

Prior government experience: Three two-year mayor terms, 2005 to 2011, two four-year city council terms.

1) There are lots of issues. But I think unity is the biggest one. Everybody is after the same goal, but we are not working together. We've got to showcase what we've got. Coal isn't going to disappear in the next three or four years, so we need to stay in touch better with the guys at the mines.

2) All (costs) have risen but we are working off the same tax base. We either (cut services) or raise revenue. We've worked with the county really well trying to combine services.

3) Really, we can write letters and voice our opinion and beat on doorsteps but it's not going to change the opinion. We just don't have enough votes. As long as we keep them informed to how we feel, and I think we have done a good job. It's just like paying income tax, nobody likes to do it but you've got to do it.

4) In the past, we've always volunteered to work and do whatever we can with the school district. Sometimes they've taken us up on it and sometimes not. It's hard to butt into somebody's business. Hopefully what (the board of education) comes forward with has a lot of time and thought put into it and it's what we need.

5) We can go beat on doors and say we want Target here; please come to Craig. It's not going to happen. We need to focus on keeping what we got and if there's a business struggling, what can we do to help those businesses? We need to focus on bringing something that coincides with what we already have. What goes with hospitals? Medical supplies. Housing for the college. Those are the kinds of things we can work on bringing in.

6) What would you like to do as mayor this time that you didn't get to do last time?

I like to stay involved, and I like to think I have 35 years in business and I have some insight about what's good and what's bad. I love the community, I think we've got a great community and I want to keep it that way.

Ray Beck

Current occupation: Ray retired from Yampa Valley Electric Association in 2009 after 37 years, filling several different roles and ending his career as a meter technician.

Family: Ray and his wife, Dixie, have been married for 32 years and live in Craig. They have four children: Russ, 37; Robyn, 41; Brian, 41; and Ryan, 43. They have seven grandchildren.

Prior government experience: Two four-year city council terms; 2007 to 2015. Prior to city council, Beck served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for three-and-a-half years.

1) Jobs and the economy. I think if you look throughout the city and not just at ours but at the entire Western Slope, I would argue that this economy is not what they say it is on the eastern side of Continental Divide. With sales tax being our largest source of revenue, I'm concerned that it has dropped over the last several years.

2) Continue to promote Craig, Colorado whenever I'm given the opportunity, and I say that because I have the opportunity to be out of town representing the city of Craig through many different aspects; through Club 20 and other boards and commissions, including the state aeronautical board. I feel that having relationships outside of the community is really important, because it provides me with connections and opportunities that I would not otherwise have access too. For example, I brought in the Colorado Space Business Round Table, Lockheed Martin and the aerospace coalition to Craig.

3) I don't support the EPA's proposed rules and regulations on our existing coal-fired power plants. Imposing unfunded mandates on free enterprise is detrimental to our community and the state of Colorado. I will continue to advocate for the community as opportunity allows through rallies at the state Capitol and through opportunities to testify on behalf of the coal industry.

4) I think and I hope the school board and district understands they're not out there fighting this fight by themselves. We have to figure out some way to collaborate and come together. What about reaching out to our representatives; Rep. Rankin, Sen. Baumgardner and Congressman Tipton? I think we should call them. They aren't going to do anything unless they know what the situation is. I believe that we should explore all of our options before reaching out to the taxpayers. One of the things I'm advocating for, as your representative for Club 20, is to draft a resolution with the district in regards to the school finance act and our per pupil funding.

5) I have a passion for aviation, and through my affiliation with the state aeronautical board and the aviation industry I may have opportunities to bring in or promote advanced manufacturing, advanced technology and aviation jobs to the community.

6) Why do many members of the Craig community call you Governor Beck?

(Laughs) I was only on council for a couple of years and Gov. Bill Ritter was running the state at the time. I was able to work with Mr. John Bolton and was able to get the Moffat County High School band to go over and play at the Boettcher Foundation. Through the course of that happening, I was able to get a picture with the governor and I think that's where it came from.

Craig City Council candidates

Joe Bird

Current occupation: Cook Chevrolet Service Manager

Family: Joe lives in Craig and has three daughters: Kaitlen Bird, 21, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri; Rebekah Bird, 18 and Christa Bird, 16, who both live in Craig.

Prior government experience: One four-year Craig City Council term, 2011 to 2015

1) The instability of the economy. I personally believe in establishing good relationships; more can be done together than can be done individually. The county and city work together well.

2) It's hard because we are so sales tax reliant. We hope people will shop local. For example, when a $35,000 to $40,000 car is bought out of town, the city loses between $500 and $600 in taxes. The money's leaking out. It would be nice to figure out how to get everyone buying in the community and help everyone understand how their actions affect their neighbors.

3) One thing I watched at the high school (during the EPA public forum) was 500-some people came together for a cause. Oil and gas and the energy industry have been a staple of Craig for a long time. A lot of people are fearful of what we will lose, and I would like to see that energy fueled into figuring out how to maintain what we have. It's important to make a stand, but we don't want to come across as argumentative when talking to our constituents in Denver.

4) We need to work together, and sit at the table and figure out what we want to accomplish and how to work together. I think more can be done with less if you get creative. Maybe some outside perspectives can help us figure it out.

5) It's everybody's responsibility. I think it's worth a conversation with the county, city and the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership to figure out what we need to do to get the spaces filled. If it's all individual ideas about what is best for the commercial spaces I think they will stay empty.

6) What would you like to do as a council member this time that you didn't get to last time?

The only thing I'm concerned for is the community I'm passionate about. I want it to find some stability instead of this roller coaster the economy's been on. I don't want circumstances to make people leave Craig or not come to Craig.

Kent Nielson

Current occupation:Manager, United Supply of the Rockies

Family:Kent lives in Craig with his wife, Cindel Nielson, and the two have four boys together: Kenneth, 33; Kole, 32 (deceased); Kiel, 30 and Klein, 26. Ken and Cindel have seven grandchildren.

Prior government experience:Two consecutive four-year Craig City Council terms, 1997 to 2004, and appointed to current term in January 2014, replacing Gene Bilodeau who left mid-term to accept a new job at a college in South Dakota in 2013.

1) Budget. I feel like our sales tax revenues are down, city and countywide, and our expenditures tend to be about the same or even higher, and I feel like we need to make sure we keep a close eye on that and make sure we keep a balanced budget and not dip into our reserves.

2) We've already started working with the county and trying to combine positions or do things like that. That's going to be a big step; I think collaboration between the school district, The Memorial Hospital and Colorado Northwestern Community College, Moffat County and the city of Craig is very important. I think that we need to look at personnel and keep an eye on that. I'm not saying I want to get rid of anybody but 68 percent of our expenditures is personnel.

3) Hopefully the EPA understands how important natural resources are to not only the city of Craig but the entire county and Northwest Colorado. If they come out and regulate us even more I just think we need to do what we can to support our coal industry and other natural resources. I'm concerned about more than just the EPA. I'm concerned about the sage grouse issue and… we just need to take a stand and voice our opinions about what is vital to the city of Craig and Moffat County.

4) I think it is vital for the entities to work together and to communicate. To a certain extent we're all after the same fund of money. I think it's important that we continue to meet like the city and the county has been. I would really like to have the other entities — government entities involved in that conversation. If we can combine resources and different people I think we can do some good things.

5) Economic development is very important. I've made a statement before that I felt like we were wasting taxpayer dollars the way economic development money was being spent before. I’m not against economic development; I just want to go about it the right way. As far as trying to help get people in, that's a tough question. I think that we as a city council need to do as much as we can to try to figure out a way to attract new businesses and hopefully do what we can to get these properties rented or purchased. I think we need to be more user-friendly, and I don't think that it necessarily means giving tax breaks.

6) What made you want to run for city council again?

I had several people approach me and ask me if I would consider putting my name in the hat to be on council. I think with my being fiscally responsible and understanding business; that's what the city is, a business. We have income and expenses. I think that I can help keep that in check. I feel like I am open-minded and I'm willing to listen to all sides of the story and I don't have one agenda in mind. My ultimate goal is to try to make Craig either as good as it has been or better than it is for the people that live here.

Liane Davis-Kling

Current occupation: Liane was a high school social studies teacher for 33 years in Moffat County School District and is presently the owner of Downtown Books.

Family: Liane lives with her husband, Richard Kling, and son, Christopher, 18, in Craig.

Prior government experience: None

1) Economic development. I think it's economic development tied into our broadband issues and the lack of broadband that we have at this point. That's what I think is the biggest issue; we have too many places closed up downtown. We've got businesses that probably would come to Craig if we had the backup with the technology.

2) Basically what I would like to do is understand the process. There are a lot of processes that happen for budgets; how the tax structure is set up in regards to how much sales tax people are paying in town and how much the city is receiving off of property taxes and any mineral taxes that are coming in. It also depends on how much capital taxes are coming in from corporations.

3) It's all in keeping an open mind and understanding the process that the EPA uses and taking into consideration what other avenues with a community college are available to you. And what are your other interests; what do you do besides work in the coal mine? We have a lot of people who also hunt and snowmobile and how can you take that and build that into something? We're a bedroom community of Steamboat, but can we pull that tourist attraction over? Can we pull our tourist destinations like Dinosaur and everything into Craig? How can you make it into more of a destination?

4) I think the best thing the city can do for the school district is just basic communication. The school district and the city and county commissioners need to understand each other's budget processes. Just as I've got to learn this budget process the school district's is much more convoluted. It's hard to understand with requirements coming from state and fed government.

5) I think that goes back to the broadband. I would like to get some research done and find out what the heck is going on with why the broadband cannot be increased. I don't know a lot about it but I would like to know why it can't be increased. I think just increasing the broadband would do a heck of a lot for economic development.

6) What made you want to run for city council?

After teaching kids about government, it's time for me to walk the walk after talking the talk in the classroom. I was at the (city council) meetings probably 90 percent of the time, except for the summer, over the past few years. I think it's interesting, and I think it's time for me to step up after all of those years of being there and see what I can do to help out.

Marilynn Hill

Current occupation: Manager at PostNet in Steamboat and runs her own portable business, Curiosity Builders, aimed at helping small businesses and others with grant-writing

Family: Marilynn lives in Craig with her two children, Aaron, a freshman at Moffat County High School, and Shannon, a junior at MCHS.

Prior government experience: None

1) Transportation issues and that has to do with economic issues; they’re combined together. Transportation keeps you from expanding economically for businesses. Highway 13 is a big issue for us. How do you get goods and services in and out of Craig? There's lots of meetings but no money. Economic development is not just for the Front Range and not just for the Western Slope places you can get to easily on I-70; it's for the whole state.

2) There are certain things we can affect and things we can't affect. Things that we can affect are transportation issues and trash issues and water issues. There are, of course, some things that are unknowns, like gas prices. One thing we need to be really careful about is where we spend money on personnel. There are things that current personnel are doing that I think you can have them multitask. So many times in government people get pigeonholed into positions and say this is the only thing I can do, but there are other things they can do along with that.

3) I believe many of the regulations coming from the EPA actually have come down from Supreme Court. There's a misnomer in thinking the EPA is trying to tell us what to do. It looks like they're Big Brother but if you look at what is going on, the Supreme Court says this is how it's going to be done. I think so often we are on the backend of those regulations; I don't believe Craig or other smaller cities are being proactive and being out front before the regulations come down. The regulations come down and then we find ourselves in the position of fighting regulations.

4) I think we really need to understand what we need to prepare our kids for. What is it I want my kids to get from high school? A small community depends on sports and brings community together. I believe there's a lot of things we can do with kids but financially with the school board we really need to look at all the different programs we have. I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and I love teachers. I believe teachers are the core and so many times we put teachers outside of the equations.

5) I think we need to be serious about economic development. We have to stand back and look at other models on what economic development is. We have to stop saying we're only Craig. We have to stop saying we're only Craig and we can only attract this. There are things we can do; tax offsets and we have to find out where that money comes from. When I was working with economic development and working on the new Raftopoulos Center and bringing in small businesses, the challenge was we had people on incubator board, business owners who said, “I will be on incubator board but I don't want to support businesses that will compete with me.”

What made you want to run for Craig City Council?

6) From the very beginning of me being in the community, I saw things I could affect change on. Some were economic development and some were as far as my kids go. Being on city council is a working board and people who hold full time jobs in community coming together who understand various things and working together to make differences together. It's not mandating to city what you're going to be. Being a leader is not being a leader on your perch and saying, “you're going to do this,” it's listening to people in the community who have great ideas that can help everyone move forward.

John Ponikvar

Current occupation: Owner of T&H Napa Auto Parts

Family: John lives with his wife, Corrie, in Craig. John is the father of two children: Stacy, 31, and Bryce, 25.

Prior government experience: Elected member of Moffat County School Board and Craig Rural Fire District. Former chairman and treasurer of the Moffat County Republican party. Former chairman of the Republican 57th House District. Appointed by Gov. Bill Owens as the 14th Judicial District Judicial Performance Commission, 2000-2008.

1) The economy. Economic diversity is our biggest issue. I think we still have the war on the power plants with the carbon and the coal. And I think we're going to be okay for a while but at same time we need to start planning for if the government does anything more to us; what can we do? We need to diversify our economy.

2) The city is an $18.5 million business. Understanding budgets, profit and loss statements and balance sheets is critical for whoever runs for this office. That's what I've done for 30 years as a business owner. We're losing sales tax revenues. We need to make sure that our revenues and our expenses are in line. Expenses are going up and revenues are going down. Sixty-eight percent of the city budget is personnel. We've got a great experienced workforce and need to make sure they have great benefits and wages and look at places we can cut.

3) Hopefully by being proactive and developing other businesses. I think a city council has to be proactive to protect the community. We need to be in constant communication with the EPA to let them know how their rules will impact our economy and our way of life. We need to be in contact with the higher-ups that can make a difference.

4) I think right now the city and county have teamed up and combined services and I think we need to bring the school district into fold. We need to understand the value the school district brings to the community. When people come to look at the community they look at hospitals, schools and recreation. Understanding each other's budgets and looking at where they can combine services will be critical.

5) We need to make sure the city has the hospital schools, and recreation to draw people. We need to go out and recruit businesses and see what will work with our economy. Are there services we can provide to other areas? For example we have the tortilla factory here that provides tortillas to Steamboat restaurants. What businesses can integrate well with our community?

6) What made you want to run for city council?

I have the time to do it right now. This is something I've planned on doing for many years; running for an elected office. I think that everyone if they have the time and energy needs to bear their share of managing the community. I have prepared for running for office for 25 years at least. I've tried to get the most experience I can because once I get there I want to be effective. There's not a board out there I probably don't have some experience with and wouldn't be able to talk intelligently about.

Derek Duran

Current occupation:Derek helps run and operate his family’s business, Duran and Pearce Contractors.

Family:Derek lives in Craig and so do his parents, Jim and Kathy Duran, and his brother and sister-in-law, Ryan and Dana, live in Craig as well.

Prior government experience:None

1) From my perspective it is just the ability to grow. I've been back for five years from college; I moved back in 2010 and there's good opportunity here in Craig. I just think we need to find ways to be able to grow in a positive manner and make it appealing for people who aren't from Craig to come here and be willing to stay and enjoy it. Obviously with budget issues and tough times it's tough to be able to grow when revenue isn't there.

2) That's been an issue and we need to as a city we need to be able to come together and we need to come up with a plan and be able to grow for the next year and for the next five to 10 years. If I’m elected, there's going to be ideas out there and my job will be to listen to the community and figure out what our best options are. But it's one of these deals where we're a small-knit town and if we don't come together and compromise on a plan going forward we might have issues for a while.

3) The EPA is going to be tough and we're going to have to adapt to it but we're going to have to fight and stand up for ourselves and tell them if they make big time regulations it will hurt us and they already have. I think as a community we'll be fine because we're a hardworking community and the EPA's been here and they've seen what we have to offer and how much the coal industry means to us. So that's another area where we're just going to have to pull together and push through.

4) People that are looking to move in want to know about the school district and whether it is succeeding or not. It's going to play a huge role in growth of Craig and we just need to be able to sit down with school board and lay out the city's issues and school district's issues and figure out a way to make both ourselves better. If school district goes one way and we go the other and tear the community apart it's going to make for worse outcomes for everything.

5) We have to be able to accept opportunity and take in opportunity whatever it may be. I think we need to keep a positive attitude toward whatever may be looking to come into Craig and be able to support those businesses 100 percent. If we get more businesses to fill that commercial property, that's more jobs in the community and more business and more sales tax, which in the end helps everyone. We just need to get out there and advertise Craig and make it appealing for someone outside of Craig to come in and say, “hey this is a place I'd like to start a business and nest down and raise a family.” If someone locally is looking to start something up, us as a community and council need to back them and support them 100 percent.

6) What made you want to run for city council?

I grew up here and as a kid and a teenager I had a great time in this community and this community offered me all sorts of opportunities and taught me a lot. I went off to college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and I always knew I would come back because of our family business, but this is a place I've just enjoyed. It's time for myself to try and get involved and help this community because I plan on being here for a while. I want to get some positive and new leadership in there.

Matt Winey

Current occupation: Matt retired from Twentymile on Dec. 31, 2014 after almost 27 years.

Family: Matt lives in Craig with his wife, Terri. The two raised three children of their own: sons, Chris and Jamie, and a daughter, Michelle. They also raised several of their nieces and nephews. They have many grandchildren.

Prior government experience: None

1) Employment and good employment; industry. It's just the lack thereof. I think it is not only trying to save our power plant and our coal mines but looking at good other industry coming in, whatever we can do to help that happen and not hurt it.

2) Hopefully we can focus on what is most important. We are in a down time and you can't budget everything. You can't pay for everything. We just have to decide what is important to community. And the other stuff may have to wait or suffer for a little bit. It’s time to evaluate priorities.

3) I'm not sure that many of their regulations we should have to adapt to. I think it's more of getting our voice heard from here to there because it should be up to us to decide what happens with our land, our resources, our community, so I'm not really sure I'm trying to adapt to them so much; they need to start listening to us. There's a real disconnect there from D.C. to the Craig City Council and what we need in our area to keep our community going.

4) There has to be communication between both sides and everywhere to figure out what is best for our community and what are the most important things. What can be cut? What are the things that we should not cut? What is important to the education of our children, not only for our community, but for their futures?

5) To help them get better from a city standpoint. The industries we can bring in; we live in a very rural area, outdoor activities; hunting and fishing, that's important to us. We have to start thinking outside the box, because we have a lot of land around us. We need to broaden our horizons in that thinking.

6) What made you want to run for city council?

It came about in 2009, when I kind of realized our country was in trouble. I got involved in the tea party heavily, mostly at the federal level. Then I got interested in looking into it, and I guess I've thought about doing it for a while. And now that I have retired, I think I should be more involved in our local government as an elected official. So, that's why I decided to run for city council. It became apparent to me that that's where things need to start — is at the local level.

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