Councilman Chris Nichols prepares for another term with confidence
Of the 4,088 ballots cast in the Moffat County coordinated election, 1,439 were cast for Craig city council candidate Chris Nichols.
In an eight-candidate city council election, that was by far the most cast for any one candidate — and almost as many ballots as were cast for the unopposed mayoral candidate, mayor-elect Ryan Hess, who received 1,588 votes.
For Nichols, who was re-elected to another term on council, it was less a moment of pride in himself and more one of confidence in the direction of the council he’s sat on in recent years.
“I’m very thankful for the voters (and) for their confidence,” Nichols said Monday. “These days, confidence in politicians — and I pride myself in not being a politician — is hard to come by. There’s a lot of distrust in government, but I look at it as a community. They don’t agree 100%, but they have confidence in the direction the city has gone these last four years.”
Nichols said he learned during his time campaigning for re-election that there’s room — unsurprisingly — for improvement.
“I think as much as anything else, it’s providing more avenues for feedback,” Nichols said. “It’s so I represent the people better, know what their wishes are — that’s probably one of the biggest things I learned. Let’s make sure I hear the people’s voice.”
As he puts the campaign behind him and prepares for another four-year term of service, Nichols said there are some obvious things top of mind.
“Economic development is there for me and for Craig heading into the future,” he said. “Trying to bring in different industries. Manufacturing — there’s no reason why, with Steamboat (Springs) having 21 outdoor companies that they can’t keep an office there, that might make sense for marketing purposes, but then be doing manufacturing here. We’re continuing to work with business improvement grants to continue that pride in community that we saw with the first couple rounds of grants we’ve done. I think that’s been contagious.”
A new group of councilmembers means a new dynamic in council chambers, and Nichols welcomes the opportunity. At least two brand-new faces will join, Jesse Jackson and Sean Hovorka will join the council as Andrea Camp and mayor Jarrod Ogden chose not to seek re-election and Hess moved from councilmember to mayor. Another possible new member would be Parrish Terry, who currently trails incumbent Bruce Cummings by a single vote and could end up winning election if cured ballots and overseas votes swing his way.
“I’m always excited to get new perspective,” Nichols said. “The new group can bring that fresh, outside perspective, and that’s exciting. The old council worked together well, and I want to thank Andrea and Jarrod for their time and service, (and) what they’ve done. I hope we hit the ground running with this new group.”
Immediate issues to address include an upcoming housing needs assessment, which is likely to be released in full next month, and further decisions to be made with the new Craig Urban Renewal Authority, Nichols said.
“How effective will the URA be working with developers?” Nichols said, before nodding to some argument in the community surrounding the first approved project, a former county commissioner’s effort to bring a Yampa Valley Adventure Center to the old mall. “I think there’s already been some controversy with the URA and Frank Moe’s project, but Council approved that. There have been some housing developers Peter (Brixius, city manager) has been working with, and the URA, the tax increment financing they can provide, that will probably be key to moving development forward. Hopefully the council will understand the importance of that function.”
With all that comes, Nichols wants to emphasize that he’s open to hearing and considering constituents’ thoughts and concerns.
“I hope everybody keeps in mind that I’m open to their feedback,” he said. “I’m willing to listen, and that doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. But I like hearing other perspectives.”
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After a narrow passage of the ordinance’s final reading by the city council, the city of Craig will have an economic development department on the books.