Q&A: 6 candidates vie for 3 Craig City Council seats | CraigDailyPress.com

Q&A: 6 candidates vie for 3 Craig City Council seats

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On April 2, Craig will hold a municipal election to chooose three new Craig City Council members, as well as decide a contested race for mayor.

According to Moffat County’s Chief Deputy Clerk and Recorder Debbie Winder, ballots will be mailed to almost 5,000 Craig residents on or about March 11. Those ballots can be mailed back or dropped off at a ballot box at the Moffat County Courthouse beginning the first day of early voting, March 25.

Ballots may be returned directly to the clerk and recorder’s office during normal business hours until Saturday, March 30. All mail-in ballots are due to be mailed in or delivered to by 7 p.m. Election Day, according to Winder.

The three council seats were opened by Joe Bird, who hit his term limit; Derek Duran, who decided not to run for re-election; and Jarrod Ogden — who is challenging incumbent Craig Mayor John Ponikvar.

According to City Clerk Liz White, six candidates will be on the April 2 ballot for city council — Paul James, Eric Simo, Joshua Veenstra, Steven Mazzuca, Brian MacKenzie, and Stephen Tucker. As the city prepares to put municipal election ballots in residents’ mailboxes, the Craig Press spoke to each candidate and provided their answers below.

Paul James

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

James: I am running for city council for multiple reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that I believe I can help get more people involved in local government. We can complain all day about what the federal government is doing, but real change starts at home, when people get involved with their local government. I also believe that I can provide a different perspective on many things, because I have a very different background than many people involved in our local government.

Other than recreational marijuana legalization, how do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

As everyone knows by now, I am pro-cannabis for many reasons, involving both personal liberty and the direct economic impact the industry would have here. Other than that, I believe there are a few different things that we can do to increase the quality of life for Craig residents. One thing that I would like to work on is removing the sales tax completely from groceries. This is something that many places in Colorado already do, and I believe that saving a few dollars each trip to the grocery store would add up over time and relieve some stress from local families in all economic levels. As far as a broader view to help improve the community, I would like to look for ways that the city of Craig could invest in assets, which would return a profit over time. I believe that this could help alleviate future potential tax burdens on the taxpayer through producing additional revenue for the city.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

In the future, I would like to see Craig more welcoming to new businesses of all types. Economics is a science, with laws, the same as any science. In nature, a lack of biodiversity can kill off an ecosystem, and the same can be said for a lack of diversity in business. I would like to see Craig grow a little bit, in an effort maintain a sustainable economy, and potentially bring in new voices with new ideas. That being said, I wouldn’t like to see Craig turn into a large city or become gentrified in any way. I love the old west feel of the area, and when I was a small child, my dad had cows south of the Wyoming border, and my grandfather herded sheep near Meeker. I would like to see the area stick to that, while making just a little room for new things and ideas.

Brian MacKenzie

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

MacKenzie: I know that Craig has entered an economic turning point as our economy gradually shifts from the energy-reliant economy of yesterday to what it will be tomorrow. Many great conversations have already happened, and much is already being done  to start laying the groundwork for what we want our new economy to look like. It’s not just about attracting businesses; it’s the strategy that needs to continue to be developed: What kind of businesses do we want to attract? What partnerships do we need in business development and higher education to attract these new businesses and entrepreneurs? With a high-speed broadband network, we can start to attract tech companies, neutral location workers, and manufacturing companies. My top priorities are economic development and continuing to improve on the quality of life for all residents.

How do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

In order to attract businesses and entrepreneurs to the Craig area, there must also be a focus on providing an exceptional quality of life for current and new residents. I applaud and support the efforts in the increase of arts and culture, the building of an indoor community recreation center, the development of a dynamic historic downtown shopping district, and ensuring quality public safety and education programs. With these key elements, we will achieve our goal to encourage business investments and retain residents. Also, investment in outdoor recreation, parks and trails, as well as the overall infrastructure (including public safety) is so incredibly important.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

This is an exciting time to be in Craig. Not only is it a wonderful place to live and raise a family, there is also a huge push to reach a wider audience to visit Moffat County, a movement to create a community recreation center for everyone, expand development of the local arts community, and a drive to diversifying the local economy. All of these are showcasing what an amazing place Craig is to work, live, and play.

Over the next few years, I believe the public will see incremental wins as they look around our community; an increase in beautifying the community and a gradual move in diversifying our economy.  You may not see sweeping change right away, but my belief is that, over the next decade, our proud community members and those who view Craig and Moffat County from the outside will look back and say, “It’s amazing how far Craig has come in a short matter of time.”

Steven Mazzuca

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

Mazzuca: Currently, I’m already pretty involved in the community. I’m the senior vice commander at the VFW; I play in two local bands, Black Mountain Riot and Four 2 Play Band; I host open mic nights for local artists and the public; and play in BCA pool leagues. In the seven years that I’ve been here, it seems like all these activities are getting smaller, or we struggle to have enough people to do them. For a while, it seemed like the town was following this trend. I started seeing several businesses close and people starting to leave Craig.The VFW, from what I hear, used to be the place to go back in the day; now, they’ve started having very few bingo players even showing up. Sometimes, the members had to buy extra games just so they could play. We used to have Memorial Day downtown, with live local bands, the car show, and vendors. It was great for the community and business downtown. That has seemed to slow way down since we moved it to the fairgrounds.

Lately however, it seems like it’s picking back up a little. We’ve had more and more people showing up at open mic nights at the VFW, and we have great people in town like Danny (Griffith) and his entire staff at JW Snack’s, as well as Joe (Belcher) at Gino’s, that support live music in the summer. My band has been fortunate enough to start playing a lot over the last couple years. We have a team that drives all the way from Steamboat to play in our BCA 8-Ball leagues, and I believe we just added a league in Oak Creek. All of these things started growing because people started getting involved.

I’m seeing that same drive from the public for wanting our town and our community to grow, as well. I want to be a part of that drive, growth, and change for the community. Top priority for me is small local business growth. I believe that is our biggest opportunities. We can raise taxes all we want, but if the money isn’t being spent locally, it doesn’t help us much. I have family member,s like my sister, Amanda Foster, and her husband, Dave, that both own local businesses. I would like to see them succeed and grow more along with everyone else.

How do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

Options. Whether those options come in the form of voting on ballots for measures the people want or do not want or making it easier for small business to develop and grow. Most things are ordered online and brought in. I think there is room for this town to capitalize on that, especially in a world where everyone wants things now. Getting it today is better than waiting for two-day Amazon shipping. Also, supporting and growing services we already have, like our college or recreation. I know the public would like a rec center, and that would be awesome, but we need to be able to pay for it, too.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

Positive change for any town over just a few years is hard to measure, but I would like to see Craig continue to support what has kept us alive all these years. We have a unique and great community full of great people. I work in Steamboat every day, and I enjoy driving home to a less busy and quieter town. I’d like to keep that feel. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow and develop more to support our local economy and services. We have a lot of offer. and more and more people are working from home, and they are wanting to relocate to smaller, safer places that offer things to do. Craig is all of those things.

Eric Simo

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

Simo: The first time my wife and I came in to the Yampa Valley, we knew that we were home. I want to help ensure that Craig and Moffat County continue moving forward in the future. As a councilman, with the help from local leaders, I want to concentrate on bringing in new businesses into Craig. We, as a community, need to continue to look forward.

How do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

Our current city council, mayor, and the Parks and Rec department have put in a great new master plan, with the new mountain bike trails on Cedar Mountain and the new trail system. Along with the river upgrades, I believe we are moving towards a healthier community. I am a firm believer that we, as a community, need to figure out how we can move forward with the recreation center that we all seem to want but can’t figure out how to get. I very much appreciate the work that the committee is doing to get the center going. As a councilman, I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that this is accomplished.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

Craig’s financial future is strong if we continue making the right investments. We do have a lot of decisions to make as a community in the future.

Stephen Tucker

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

Tucker: Personally, I would like to willingly share the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years, from aerospace, banking, and software development. I understand the maintenance of infrastructure. I do not like deferred maintenance and all the problems that come with that. I know we have some water quality control issues that have to be met soon and look forward to finding out more about that.

How do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

The first thing that comes to mind is the quality of our internet system. I’m not happy, as many of you have experienced, with the recent events of massive computer outages that put our businesses and our citizens in disarray. When our businesses cannot even run their computers, point-of-sale systems, and their phones are not working, something is wrong somewhere. I know the city is looking into its own broadband system, and I would like to learn more about that.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

Craig needs to stay Craig.  We are not Denver, Steamboat, or Grand Junction. We are Craig. We are unique, and there’s a reason people live here and raise their families. Our uniqueness is what makes us Craig. And we certainly do not need outsiders dictating that certain predators be released back into an area where they are neither wanted nor needed.

Joshua Veenstra

Craig Press: Why are you running for Craig City Council? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

Veenstra: I believe that Craig really needs to focus on tourism and diversifying the economy. My priorities are our wilderness, our trail system and the Parks and Recreation trails advisory committee. My main focus is also the river and what that can do for us.

How do you think the city of Craig can improve the quality of life for its citizens and those who visit?

We have this golden opportunity for Craig to diversify our economy. We have so much open space, and we need to learn how to use it in the right ways — through tourism and recreation. That’s the fastest-growing industry in the nation now. We also must embrace Dinosaur more. We have one of the coolest national monuments in the nation right in our backyard.

How do you envision the future of Craig over the next few years?

If we keep on the same path, all the professionals have told us we will flatline. As long as we can get on the right path and diversify, then we have the potential for growth.

Editor’s note: To learn more about the candidates for Craig City Council, attend the Craig Press/Craig Association of Realtors Candidate Forum, set for 6 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Moffat County High School.



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