Moffat County Commission incumbent champions rural broadband, seeks another term
Candidate at a glance:
Name: Audrey Danner, incumbent Moffat County Commissioner for District 2
Party affiliation: Republican
Residency: Moved to Moffat County from Fort Collins in 1974
Family: Married to optometrist Dr. Ron Danner
Children: Rachel, 34, a physician's assistant in Montrose; and Ryan, died in 1994 at 17 in car crash
Hobbies: Skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, and arts and crafts.
When Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner moved to Craig from Fort Collins in 1974, it was done “by choice.”
Danner and her husband, optometrist Dr. Ron Danner, arrived in a Chevy Vega with no mortgage, no money, but plenty of student loan debt.
The two decided Craig was not only ripe for Dr. Danner to start an optometry practice, but a perfect place to raise a family.
Looking back on more than 38 years living and working in Craig and Moffat County, Danner, now 59, can remember numerous events in her life she believes prepared her for public office.
But. not all of the experiences were easy.
In 1994, the Danners lost their son, Ryan, to a car crash. He was 17 and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when the truck he was traveling in rolled off the highway.
“He’s still our son and a big part of our life,” Danner said. “It was a life-changing event, which is why I am such a huge proponent of seatbelts and why I try to do as much as I can when another member of the community loses a child.”
Two years later, Danner was hired as director of Yampa Valley Data Partners, formerly known as Yampa Valley Partners.
It was while speaking with elected officials throughout the Yampa Valley and immersing herself in local issues that she decided she wanted to someday participate in county government.
“I truly enjoyed the job and had a good job when a vacancy opened up on the Moffat County Commission (in 2008),” Danner said. “When the appointment process started, I knew what I really wanted to do.”
Danner won the 2008 appointment and was elected to complete her first term in 2010.
She is vying for reelection against Republican Party challenger Chuck Grobe.
Danner spoke Tuesday about continuing the county’s path toward more efficient government, protecting Moffat County’s coal industry and championing an effort to bring broadband to rural communities throughout Colorado.
On streamlining county government:
Earlier this year, the county commission hired Roy Tipton as developmental services director to manage the county’s infrastructure improvement projects.
Danner said commissioners are currently looking to create a finance director position to oversee county administration, accounting and budget duties, and manage finances for each of the county’s various departments.
“Think of the departments as satellites, each with their own finance managers,” Danner said. “Using the developmental services department through Roy Tipton, Jerry Hoberg and Pat Mosbey has worked really well and we continue to see improvements in their ability to work with other departments to get projects done.”
On broadband Internet for rural areas:
Danner has been championing the effort to bring broadband to rural communities throughout the state, which she believes is vital to Moffat County’s economic development, health care distribution and education.
“This is an interesting time with deregulation of telecommunications,” Danner said. “For broadband to be affordable, reliable, and redundant we need legislation that will make it feasible for companies to come in and ‘light,’ or open up to use, the fiber that is already in place.
“I know what increased fiber optics can do for a community. That’s infrastructure we need for businesses to do better, K-12 education, higher education and to improve how health providers distribute information.”
On government finance:
The definition of what it means to be fiscally responsible, or fiscally conservative, is subjective, Danner said.
“For some it’s just about the dollars, but providing government services requires more analysis of the company, quality of the product, service, or location of the company rather than simply approving a low bid,” she said. “Those are all factors we have to take into account.
“Sometimes we do focus on the lowest price because that is why we go through the bid process in the first place … to get the best price we can so we have more money for other county services.
But, she said, “It’s not always about a number. That’s why we also rely on the expertise of our department heads.”
On energy development:
They key to protecting energy development, Danner said, is maintaining a close watch on pending legislation as well as current issues such as sage grouse and the Bureau of Land Management’s implementation plan.
“The (BLM) Resource Management Plan allowed for 1 percent oil and gas drilling in Vermillion Basin,” Danner said. “That’s been overturned. It went from 100 percent to 1 percent and now to zero. That affects our economy, we need to keep telling that story, and looking for ways to responsibly extract our resources.
“Our state rules at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are noted as some of the most effective in the country in regards to how they were built and how they are implemented. I do not want to penalize an industry if they can follow the rules and extract a product at a reasonable price.
“That’s good for all of us. It’s good for our nation, it’s good for our energy independence and it’s good for consumers.”
On the relationship between Moffat County and the City of Craig:
Despite what many may believe, Danner said the relationship between Moffat County and City of Craig officials has never been better.
Although the two entities disagree on issues, Danner cited ongoing efforts to improve Shadow Mountain and last weekend’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous — hosted for the first time at Loudy-Simpson Park — as examples of the productive working relationship not only between elected officials, but between city and county employees.
“At the present time we (city and county officials) are preparing an application to the energy assistance impact fund through (the Colorado Department of Local Affairs) to improve Shadow Mountain,” Danner said. “It’s a joint effort and we have had many conversations on how to support each other to maximize our chances.”
Competition for DOLA funds is expected to be fierce in 2012, Danner said, and the agency is expected to give preference to projects that are “shovel ready.”
County and city employees are working together to assess Shadow Mountain infrastructure and construct engineering plans in an effort to appeal to DOLA officials.
“We need to continue to find those projects that are mutually beneficial,” Danner said. “It may be a smaller item, yet no less important, but Whittle the Wood is an excellent example of a mutually beneficial project because it was a city event held on county property.
“County and city staff had to work together to pull it off. They developed a plan of action and were able to stage a very successful event.”
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Next week, Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County are hosting a free day-long seminar for local ranchers and agriculture producers.