Gubernatorial candidate visits Craig to share ideas on supporting rural communities
September 7, 2017
Northwest Colorado residents had an opportunity to meet with a man working hard to become Colorado's next governor.
If successful in his bid, Victor Mitchell would be the third Republican in over 60 years to hold the state's highest office.
Mitchell, from Castle Rock, has built six successful businesses of the past 30 years and plans to bring entrepreneurial thinking to lead Colorado.
"I've never worked for anyone other than myself. I started my first business when I was 21 years old and paying my way through college. This type of small businessman and entrepreneurial thinking is exactly what Colorado needs to fix many of the challenges facing our state," Mitchell said.
From 2007 to 2009, he served for Douglas and Teller counties as a Colorado state representative, but believes himself to be a political outsider willing to make the kind of bold moves he feels Colorado will need to address serious problems.
"My naysayers are already complaining that my agenda is too bold," Mitchell said.
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He believes that he has the right blend of personal, professional and public experience for Colorado's top job.
We sat down with Mitchell to learn more about his ideas for supporting rural Colorado, coal jobs, and how he would address needs in education and health care.
How will you ensure rural economies aren't left behind during the current population booms and economic growth happening elsewhere in Colorado?
The rural parts of our state have really been left behind. We don't have a governor who understands, or has focused, on all 64 counties across our state. We have to do things differently if we're going to move rural communities forward.
I'm a big believer that wealth is created in the private sector. We have to do more in our state to promote private sector economic development. I am spending nearly half of my time in rural Colorado because it is that important to me, and our state.
As governor, I believe we need to roll back many burdensome rules and regulations that have had a bone-chilling effect on economic growth, especially in rural Colorado.
We need to start promoting small business formation and entrepreneurship as well as greater worker retraining. We also have to invest in greater vocational schooling, which should be taught in every high school. We also must do more to ensure that all rural communities have first-rate, high-speed, and affordable Internet access.
As a businessman, how would you support rural communities like Craig in their efforts to recruit new business and industry to diversify their economies?
I'm the only Republican candidate who has a 64-point economic plan. We are going to work with community colleges, mayors, commissioners and business leaders to determine what types of private industry Moffatt County could support. Then it is up to the governor and his team to go out and identify those types of businesses and encourage them to relocate.
There are many competitive advantages the West Slope and other rural communities have including greater quality of life, lower costs of living, labor and even land. We need to exploit these advantages and promote greater small business and entrepreneurship throughout rural Colorado.
It's also important that rural Colorado should get the same access to infrastructure priorities and resources. The power and influence and reverence of the highest office in Colorado could be effectively leveraged to bring more opportunities to Moffat County.
What ideas do you have to help coal miners diversify their skills and find other high-paying work as the coal industry continues to decline?
First of all, there has been a war on coal, and it has been unfair to hardworking coalminers like those here in Craig. If you wipe out the coal industry it hurts all Coloradans. Coal is still one of the most affordable forms of energy. When we punish the coal industry, it means not only a loss of high-paying jobs, but it also raises everyone's utility bills. Colorado must have an "all of the above" energy strategy that allows the market to function efficiently. We shouldn't be favoring renewable energy over others, in other words, picking winners and losers.
The challenge of retraining is real. Community colleges have proven to be nimble and often have been able to adapt in providing relevant new skills. However, the education must be affordable and accessible. There is also a great deal of online educational content that could be utilized more effectively with state involvement. We simply have to do a great deal more with our education system and this includes greater access to vocational training along with reduced regulations.
For many displaced coal workers, the greatest assistance would be to encourage some to start a small business. With less red tape and fewer bureaucratic regulations, many more would be willing to pursue the American dream. Everyone deserves the opportunity to make the most of their life, and more often than not, Government is in the way.
How would you propose to solve Colorado's teacher shortage, especially in rural areas?
First and foremost we have to allow unaccredited teachers to teach in public schools. I have a master’s degree, have taught as an adjunct professor at two major state universities including Colorado State University, yet I'm not allowed to teach in Colorado's public school because I'm not "accredited."
By allowing non-accredited professionals to teach, shortages could be filled by those who maybe retired and want to give back or others who have relevant experience but only desire to teach on a part-time basis.
We have significant teacher shortages throughout most rural communities, especially in the technical fields such as math, science, technology and economics, and changing the accreditation requirement could fill many of these positions.
We also must embrace a greater online curriculum, where lectures could be received anywhere by qualified teaching professionals in whole range of topics.
We also must work to weaken the teachers' unions. The teachers' unions have had a chilling effect on education reform. They protect the status quo at the expense of parents and kids. I've been a school choice warrior for decades. I believe that all students deserve the opportunity for school choice that includes vouchers, online, home schooling, charter or attending a traditional school.
Do you support the new critical shortages in rural school districts law that will permit retirees to teach in school with teacher shortages without losing retirement benefits?
How would you help people in rural Colorado obtain quality, affordable healthcare?
We are one of the healthiest states in the country and we have lowest rate of obesity. Colorado's health care challenges are different than other states and we need a different type of thinking and approach.
Medicaid does not work for most Coloradans, and it's rationed care of which most doctors won't accept due to its low reimbursements.
My plan is to get us out of the exchange and the expansion of Medicaid and replace with high-quality, patient-centered, primary care health care clinics that would not require insurance. These clinics are often managed by independent nurse practitioners, which spend up to 40 minutes with each patient.
My plan is to provide block grants for up to 50 percent of their annual operating expenses, preferably nonprofit clinics, managed by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and mental health professionals. Each clinic would have to justify their pricing model, quality of care and accessibility.
There are similar models that are modernizing the way medical care is delivered including greater use of tele-medicine and Colorado could learn from these innovative providers, and communities, such as Craig, would benefit.
My plan also includes full pricing transparency, where any Coloradan would be provided a complete pricing list, cash or insurance, when they visit a health provider. This would allow patients to rate their doctors and allow them to make better and more informed choices.
This past week I visited Rocky Ford and someone explained they had insurance and needed an MRI but couldn't afford the $2,500 cost. They couldn't meet their $11,000 deductible, so effectively, they had no insurance at all. I worked with my team and located a clinic that provided the identical procedure for $600 instead of the $2,500. Transparency in pricing is powerful and would drive down costs and improve access.
Finally, rural Coloradans have few insurance options and the rates for insurance have exploded. This past year, insurance rates have gone up as much as 40 percent in some places. This is totally unacceptable and another example that the "Unaffordable Act" should be repealed. Insurance should be used for emergency services and specialty care.
We need to think differently about how to expand high-quality primary care to all Coloradans. Again, my plan would allow for all Coloradans to gain access to primary care without the need for insurance.
What else would you like readers to know?
I'm not a politician but a leader. I was raised by a single mother who is legally blind and deaf. I know what it is to be marginalized but also know what it takes to rise up and become successful. We too often elect politicians who can't seem to fix anything; individuals with limited business and private experience. It's understandable why we've lost confidence in our institutions and elected officials.
Colorado has some serious challenges but we also have great opportunities. We are not fixing problems for everyday people. We can't seem to fix our health care, we can't seem to educate our children and we are smothering our businesses with burdensome regulations. We need somebody who is not beholden to special interests. We need somebody who can think imaginatively and creatively. We can and must start solving some of our challenges.
I'm an outsider and a family man who has a deep love for Colorado.