Craig City Council election forum centers on economy, momentum | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig City Council election forum centers on economy, momentum

Lauren Blair

Seven Craig City Council candidates and two mayoral candidates share the stage at Wednesday night's election forum hosted by KRAI

— With the election just over a month away, candidates for mayor and Craig City Council gathered to answer questions about what's ahead for Craig and, more importantly, what they intend to do about it.

Economic development and diversification emerged as the theme for the night both in questions and answers.

"We've got to change our perception and realize that energy probably isn't going to be here forever, though its taken care of us for a long time," said incumbent councilman Jarrod Ogden.

Many advocated a focus on recruiting new business and making Craig more business-friendly.

"We need to be willing to give up something to be aggressive at bringing businesses in," said council candidate Bill Johnston. "There are communities all over America competing to bring businesses in. You have to give something to get something."

Several candidates also touted building Craig from the inside out.

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"I firmly believe it's not about just bringing new businesses to Craig, it's about enhancing the business that are here," said council candidate Dave DeRose.

DeRose also cited recent infrastructure growth — including a new middle school, hospital and college — noting a recreation center was the only significant project not yet complete. Several others called for the building of a rec center in order to provide a safe place for kids to go after school.

Council candidates vying for one of four seats in this election include Andrea Camp, Chris Nichols, Bill Johnston, Rod Compton, Dave DeRose and incumbents Jarrod Ogden and Tony Bohrer.

Overall, many expressed an excitement for a certain momentum or energy they feel in Craig right now as leading institutions such as the city, county, hospital, college and school district partner to work towards a collective vision for Craig's future.

"I've never been more excited than I am now," said current councilman and mayor candidate John Ponikvar. "We have the pieces in place to make positive changes," he said, referring to fresh leadership at the city, college, hospital and school district.

Ponikvar and fellow councilman Joe Bird are running for mayor. Besides the three seats up for election, whomever is elected mayor will leave a fourth vacant seat to be filled by the fourth-highest vote winner.

Asked in a lightning round about retail marijuana, the proposed sales and use tax on the ballot, the possibility of a four-day school week and whether the Moffat County Sheriff's Office should merge with Craig Police Department, only Johnston said he wouldn't consider a four-day school week. Ogden and Nichols were the only two who said they would consider a law enforcement merger.

On retail marijuana, Ponikvar and Johnston both clarified they supported the people's right to vote on it — though Ponikvar said he would vote no, given the choice — and Ogden and Camp said they would support it.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.