Q&A: Craig mayoral candidates Jarrod Ogden, John Ponikvar | CraigDailyPress.com

Q&A: Craig mayoral candidates Jarrod Ogden, John Ponikvar

Beginning the first day of early voting March 25, Craig residents will have to opportunity to choose between two candidates for mayor of Craig.

The Craig Press spoke with incumbent Mayor John Ponikvar and challenger Jarrod Ogden, a current city council member, and provided their answers below.

Jarrod Ogden

Craig Press: Why are you running for mayor of Craig? What are you hoping to accomplish as mayor of Craig? What are your top priorities?

Ogden: I am running for mayor for a couple of reasons. I have been very active in the community for several years and been on council for the past six years, and I don’t feel like my job is done. I believe that, with the council’s and city staff’s help, we can accomplish more for the city and its residents. I believe that I can offer the citizens of Craig the type of non-biased, forward-thinking leadership that I feel this community needs.

If I were to be elected mayor of Craig, I am hoping to accomplish the following goals:

• Continue to clean up abandoned buildings and structures, as well as the city streetscapes

• Continue to strengthen our local economy and improve the city/county relations

If elected mayor my top priorities are as follows:

• Continued economic development and growth

• Improved recreation

• More community involvement and engagement with city council

In a town that doesn’t always have contested local races, why did you choose to run against Mayor John Ponikvar?

I felt it was the right time in my life, as well as my tenure on city council, to make the next step. Also I feel that the constituents of Craig deserve a choice when voting. It’s my belief that no candidate should run unopposed.

What do you envision the future of Craig looking like in the next few years?

A visibly cleaner community with a large focus on helping the local economy in every way possible.

John Ponikvar

Craig Press: Why are you running for mayor of Craig? What are you hoping to accomplish as mayor of Craig? What are your top priorities?

Ponikvar: I am running to help continue the direction the city is going regarding financial stability, economic/community development, and preparing for the changes that the future will be bringing to our area. Our new City Manager Peter Brixius has some thoughts about how the city will partner with other entities. My familiarity and relationships with those organizations will help to facilitate the conversation. The past two years, I have worked to raise the visibility, accountability, inclusiveness, and civility of the city council. I want to enhance these initiatives.

I will work on regional planning for economic development with Routt and Rio Blanco counties, as well as supporting our energy industry partners, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Memorial Regional Health, Northwest Colorado Health, BLM, Moffat County Tourism, downtown businesses, community revitalization, museum, library, and encourage investment in our community at all levels. I was recently part of a group that traveled to Grand Junction to look at and understand the economic development efforts there. I can see many opportunities, like co-working spaces, mechanical, technical, and food service incubators that are working there and would enhance our community’s job diversity. The exciting part was that the people we visited with are offering to share their expertise and provide assistance for our efforts here in Craig. There is always more engagement from others when they see a community’s elected officials involved.

In a town that doesn’t always have contested local races, are you looking forward to running against Jarrod Ogden? What makes you different from your opponent?

Community and council engagement. I am much more fiscally conservative, and I take advantage of educational opportunities to make myself a better councilperson. Time and flexibility that the job requires.

I am involved with many organizations and efforts in the community and have been for many years. It is important that the mayor has a well-rounded view of the issues and who the players are. I have only missed one council meeting in the past two years, and I am fully prepared for the meeting when I arrive. I review my packets and ask questions ahead of time so that I am not learning the facts of an issue during the meeting.

When I came on council four years ago, the city was in financial trouble. Working with council and staff, and by encouraging the city to run more like a business, the city is in a very stable financial position. The sales tax that the citizens narrowly passed in April of 2017 has to last. Our community will not tolerate another tax for the city. My opponent believes that spending down to the minimum reserves is an appropriate way to handle the taxpayer money. We must make the best use of the money that the taxpayers have entrusted their elected officials with. Inflation alone impacts the city $200,000 to $300,000 per year. It is important that council save money and be prepared for the future.

This year, I will reach the highest level of achievement offered by Colorado Municipal League’s MUNIversity, the Graduate Level. This is a program of knowledge for municipal elected officials. The training is designed to inform elected officials about issues that are important to municipal government and learning how to do the job they were elected to do. I will have amassed over 100 credits, which I largely funded myself to the benefit of the city of Craig. In six years on council, Mr. Ogden has not participated in any of these trainings.

Currently, I spend 15 to 20 hours a week representing and working for the citizens of Craig. I am able to do this because of the amazing staff I have at my business. Virtually every day, there are meetings or community events that the mayor should be involved with. Many of these happen during business hours, beginning at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., or 6 p.m. The mayor must have the ability to be flexible regarding time and be there when the community expects them.

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

Change is coming to Craig. We know that Unit 1 of Tri-State G & T will close on Dec. 31, 2025. Our new governor would like to see the state of Colorado be totally renewable energy by 2040. I believe that the governor’s vision is unattainable, but we must prepare.

The city of Craig has a bright future. We will work with CNCC to develop the Craig campus and make the college more relevant to the community’s economy. MRH continues to expand, adding over 150 jobs in the past couple of years. This is real economic development. The city of Craig is, and will be, an active partner with the Chamber of Commerce, Moffat County Tourism Association, and BLM to develop our tourism economy. Craig will create partnerships in Routt and Rio Blanco counties that will encourage manufacturing, warehousing, and workforce development and housing that will benefit the region and Craig.

The future will see an active and vibrant downtown supported by the city that will draw business and strengthen the downtown core of the city. We will see the recently adopted Parks and Recreation master plan guide the community to important recreational development that will provide services to our youth through our seniors. Craig will embrace the change that is coming and will be better because of it. Craig and Moffat County will thrive due to the “can-do attitude” that permeates our community. I am the person that has the time, energy and experience to help foster the change.

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.