What does the future hold: How do city council candidates envision Craig in a decade or more?
With a little over three weeks to go to Election Day, candidates for Craig city council are continuing their campaigns for seats on the city’s primary governing board. At last week’s candidate forum, it was clear that there was a hot topic among them: Craig’s future.
When asked how they envisioned the city 10 to 15 years from now, candidates dug deep into their ideas on how they would help keep the future of Craig sustainable.
Jesse Jackson, a first-time runner for a seat on the city council, said that he hopes that Craig can continue to be a family-oriented town but still see the important growth it needs post-closure of the coal mines and power plants.
“I think that it’s going to be tough,” Jackson said. “There’s going to be some trials and errors, and I think if we keep working at improving and keeping up our infrastructure and schools and keeping the town clean and the improvements that we’ve started to do that, I think are making (Craig) a better place to live. I think if we keep doing that, more people will want to live here (and) continue to move here. Then we’ll be able to sustain ourselves.”
Bruce Cummings, who is currently sitting on the council after being appointed to a seat this last term, said that he has no doubt that the city will be able to move past the current reliance on the energy industry, but he added that it’s going to have to take cooperation from everyone in Craig.
“I believe that the future is nothing but positive for all of us that are here,” Cummings said. “Those of us that get involved, and those of us that work hard for the people that are here, we want the best for you. My biggest thing is looking into the future is the success that we will have, (and) things are going to change. Things are going to look a little different in 10 years, but for the most part, we’re going to be here. We’re going to be successful. It’s going to be the type of community we want, because we built it.”
Parrish Terry, a local pastor, said that Craig should look for examples of growth from Moab, Utah, a city comparable in size to Craig that faced similar energy closures and has since adapted into a prosperous community. Specifically, Terry touched on recreational and outdoor business growth in the region.
“Think of the restaurants. Think of all the industry that goes into fixing things — mechanics of the side-by-sides and snowmobiles,” Terry said. “All of this is where the growth is going to be. Yes, we could get a home run every once in a while and bring in a new Walmart. Yes, every once in a while we can bring in manufacturing, but we are going to have to take small steps. It’s the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise wins every time.”
Sean Hovorka, another newcomer to public office who is a supervisor at Trapper Mine, said that Craig’s top industry after energy will have to be what carries the town for decades to come. In a place that Hovorka called “an outdoor Mecca,” he said there was plenty of opportunity, but that comes with responsibility, and growth should be focused both in and outside of the city.
“(Recreational growth) also comes with good stewardship. We need to make sure that we’re taking care of our herds,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re taking care of our trails and everything else that goes around it. This is getting outside of the city though. So let’s look closer into the city. We need to be taking care of our downtown because downtown (Craig) is going to be bigger.”
Chris Nichols, another incumbent running for a second term, said that in addition to revitalizing downtown with grants, other options to grow the city would be to look into other improvements that can be made in areas like education, affordable housing and programs at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
“The challenge is going to be replacing that tax base that’s lost from the coal industry,” Nichols said. “And I think we need to continue to work on the coal products and the retooling of that industry, and look into the future what that industry is going to continue to look like. But not to lay all our eggs in that basket, we continue to develop our assets that make us a community.”
John Alcedo, another who is running his first campaign for public office, applauded the current council and the work they have put in to help start that transition. He added that promoting education and other tourist attractions could help with losses from plant closures.
“I think it’s a great idea to work with the college, to expand that in different areas,” he said. “And I think education is going to continue to grow in this country, and it’s going to be big. I would love to see things (such as) one thing I always thought about when I come back headed east, on 4th Street, is why don’t we ever sign on Yampa Avenue that says, ‘Come visit our beautiful downtown Northwestern Colorado Museum?’ It’s a world-class museum.”
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Hayden’s new school was built with a sizable grant and the support of the community as residents approved the more than $22 million school bond measure in 2017 by just two votes.