Craig’s new mayor is excited about taking the community in a new direction
Craig — Voters in the city of Craig sent a strong message of support in electing the new mayor.
John Ponikvar will take office April 25 after winning the race for Craig mayor by a 16 percent margin over candidate Joe Bird.
The Craig Daily Press caught up with Ponikvar the morning after the election to ask him about his motivation for running for office, how he intends to address the city budget crunch and what direction he wants to take the community.
CDP: Why did you decide to run for mayor?
Ponikvar: Right now we are in a critical time in Craig. In the next two to five years we really need to start promoting Craig, bringing businesses here. I bring a lot of energy, and I felt this is the time I could make a real difference. I see the opportunity to work with other agencies. City and county are working really well together. I’ve seen how we can bridge that gap and make the situation better.
CDP: How do you plan to overcome the perception that the city is run by the “good ol’ boys?”
Ponikvar: The demographics of our community are changing, and this council reflects the changes we are seeing in the community. We are becoming a younger community as people my age are retiring. I think we need to reach out and embrace new thoughts, new ideas and new people. We have younger people with vision on the city council: Camp, Duran, Bohrer, the old guard is changing.
I want to do what is best for the city, and I think we have a council that reflects those ideals. We don’t have a choice, we are either going to change or die as a community. I have already lived through that before in another community, Leadville, and I am not about to do that again.
CDP: The sales/use tax initiative failed. Do you have a sense of why it failed?
Ponikvar: We found that the use tax was a distraction from the sales tax. I think the community saw the need to invest but not with a use tax. They don’t want a use tax. We need to face that reality and find other ways. There are other alternatives that we need to discuss that will still protect our local businesses and find the funds that our city needs. For example, Silverthorne does not charge city sales tax on vehicles and it has helped their automobile dealers thrive and grow and keep business in town.
We will be back with a better question. I think that people had questions about where the money was going to go. I don’t think we did a very good of defining where the money was going to be used. If there is a question in people’s mind they will vote no.
CDP: What will the city need to do now?
Poikvar: The need is still there for the enhanced revenues, and as a council we need to decide how to move forward. There is a possibility of asking voters in November. We will be better prepared by talking about where and how the money will be used. We have learned a lot from this effort.
Our budget is good through 2017, but the city staff met this morning to decide what things they can do without — what new equipment won’t be purchased and what services can be minimized.
The city manager’s job is to give us an implementable budget, but council is the sounding board for the community and we need to listen to what the community wants, what they feel we can do without and what they want us to enhance. By listening to the community the council will be able to prioritize and help the city staff with the tough decisions they will have to make.
CDP: You’ve stated that you intend to take the city in a new direction, what does that mean exactly?
Ponikvar: We are going to clean up the community and the city will set an example. We are going to be proactive in encouraging companies to come here. One of the things I did two years ago when I got on city council is to talk about City Market. They have built $20 (million) to $24 million complexes in Carbondale, Grand Junction, Rifle and Steamboat. Why aren’t they investing in Craig? I believe they need to invest in Craig. I’m going to start with City Market – Kroger and then we are going to go out and start lobbying companies to come here.
We’ve hired the right person as city manager that knows how to lobby these companies and get them to come to Craig. One of the things that has really hindered us is that we have discouraged businesses in a lot of ways, some of our rules and regulations where prohibitive. We are going to be more flexible and work with businesses. So we are going to put out the message: “How can we help?” I think we have sat on our hands waiting, but we need to be proactive and go out there.
CDP: What else would you like the community to know?
Ponikvar: We are a great community. We have a lot to offer and sometimes we are the only ones that don’t realize it. We need to feel better about ourselves. We can do that by making this a more livable community — better sidewalks, trails, recreation for all of our citizens and a vibrant downtown.