New petition spices up Craig’s mayoral election |

New petition spices up Craig’s mayoral election

Noelle Leavitt Riley
Joe Bird, second from right, has submitted his petition to become mayor of Craig. He will face incumbent Mayor John Ponikvar, second from left, in the April 2 municipal election.
Courtesy photo

The mayoral race is heating up in Craig.

Joe Bird submitted his petition to run for mayor, putting him up against fellow city council member John Ponikvar who announced his bid for mayor in December.

The seat was vacated when former Mayor Ray Beck won the Moffat County Commissioner race in November — a role he took on earlier this month. Councilman Kent Nielson is mayor pro tem until a new mayor is elected.

Bird has for a long time thought about a bigger leadership role in the community, and becoming mayor is how he’s trying to reach that goal.

“My desire to run for mayor has existed,” Bird said. “I wanted to last time. There were some circumstances that made it difficult. Situations have turned around … so I decided to run.”

Both Bird and Ponikvar are in the middle of their first four-year terms on city council. Whoever wins will leave an open seat on city council.

Eight people turned in petitions to run for three spots on city council, and the person that gets the fourth highest vote will take the open council seat left by the newly elected mayor if approved by city council, said City Finance Director Bruce Nelson.

“I think it’s great (Joe Bird is running),” Ponikvar said. “I’ve been championing this cause for people’s right to vote, and I also champion people’s right to choose.”

Ponikvar and Bird have different views on retail marijuana cultivation and sales within city limits. Bird voted against putting three marijuana questions on the ballot at the Jan. 10 city council meeting while Ponikvar voted in favor.

“Just because I’m against it, doesn’t mean I won’t investigate what that would look like as far as the well being of Craig,” Bird said, noting that he believes the support staff needed to regulate marijuana would outweigh the financial benefit it provides to the city.

He also fears that marijuana is a gateway drug to harsher substances.

Ponikvar voted in favor of allowing retail pot to go on the ballot in Craig, stating at the Jan. 14 meeting that he wants the choice to be up to the people no matter what his personal feelings are about marijuana.

Bird has served on a number of committees in the 13 years he’s lived in Craig, including Rotary, the United Way board, the chamber board (where he also served as president), Young Life and the Boys & Girls Club of Craig board. He also currently serves on the diesel automotive advisory committee for the college.

Both candidates have a deep love and passion for the Craig community.

“I’m astounded at the way people come together, whether it be burning homes or the power plant issues we were facing last year… the way people rose up to help their neighbors,” he said.

Bird has three daughters and three stepdaughters and is married to Sherri Bird.

The election is April 4, and mail ballots go out to voters on March 13.

Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or or follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or or follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.

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