The last word
Local candidates answer questions on a variety of issues right before Election Day
Moffat County Commission District 3
1. What is the last book you read?
Darryl Steele: It was “Confessions of a Maverick,” an autobiography by Ferry Carpenter. Ferry was a pioneer here in the Yampa Valley, living near Hayden. He was a rancher, lawyer and the first director of the Taylor Grazing Act that controls federal lands. He was a friend and influenced my thinking about beef cattle production and selection in the early ’70s. This was not the first time I have read this book.
Jean Stetson: “Only Angels Can Wing It The Rest Of Us Have to Practice,” by Liz Curtis Higgs.
2. What is your top priority if elected as a Moffat County commissioner?
Stetson: It is important to plan for the future of Moffat County. An important part of our future is protecting our ability to wisely use our natural resources. Natural Resources are vital to the future of our economy. I would also get a long-range budget plan in place to help the county plan for variations in revenue, and to plan for the future needs of the county in a fiscally responsible manner.
Steele: My top priority would be to control spending for items or personnel that I don’t feel benefit the taxpayers of Moffat County. This would include taking a close look at the positions that have been added in the last three years just below the county commissioners and making sure they either justify their expenditures or are eliminated. In conjunction with this, I would take a portion of these savings to increase the emergency funds in the county that have been reduced over the last several years.
Another top priority for me would be to work with the employee system and see if I could improve employee moral by analyzing safety, benefits, wages and working conditions.
3. How would you balance
economic development versus quality of life?
Steele: I believe that we need to grow so that our children could stay here if they choose and be able to have good jobs. To do this and still keep the rural America quality of life we should try to recruit several smaller companies or industries to our area. One that comes to mind was mentioned to me by Craig’s Mayor Dave DeRose. It was a ceramics manufacturing company that would use fly ash from the plant. There would be no air or water pollution and the company would employ between 50 to 100 people. This size company would keep us growing but would keep us away from the boom and bust economy that we saw in the ’70s and ’80s. Another source of income that would be good would be from a convention center. These are really clean dollars. They come here, spend their money and leave. We don’t have to educate their children or have their family on welfare.
Stetson: I am in the process of learning about what people value and what their concerns are regarding development versus quality of life through my involvement in the Moffat County Master Plan update. When making recommendations for economic development, I will remember what the people have said about the quality of life that they value in Moffat County.
I believe it is important to carefully explore what types of economic development are promoted and we need to have an understanding of how various developments might affect our county. Trying to understand the impacts of development and change will hopefully give us the ability to plan and help minimize the impacts that growth may have on our quality of life.
4. In the case of a budget influx, what is the first item you would want to add or area you would want to improve in Moffat County government?
Stetson: These types of decisions should not be made by just the commissioners. It is about what the people want for the future of Moffat County. I have heard requests for several projects. I would bring people together to get their ideas on where the additional funds should be used. It would be important to explore where the additional funds would be of most value and benefit to all the residents of the county.
Steele: I would want to use a percentage of this budget influx to bolster the county’s emergency funds to a level that would cover the emergencies they were established for. I would then use part of the balance in a capital improvement reserve fund to finance things like the recreation center/convention center project using the old Country General building that was proposed by Dave DeRose, which had Moffat County participation included in the plan. This fund could also be used to pave or improve some of Moffat County’s more heavily used roads. If a reserve fund was there, these types of projects could be funded without bonding, borrowed money or tax increase. The final balance of this influx could be added to the general fund to cover contingencies or new items not budgeted for as they arise.
5. Question: If forced to make budget cutbacks, where is the first place you would look to do so?
Steele: I would look at the new level of bureaucracy put in place in the last three years by the current board of county commissioners. Our population has not grown enough in the last 10 years to justify this much increase in government. Most of the jobs currently being done by this bureaucracy was done by the county commissioners in the past. Maybe it is time for the commissioners to go back to earning their salary by being more involved in the day to day operations of Moffat County.
Stetson: I would look to all county departments to pitch in and take a hard look to make sure each county department is operating in an efficient and effective manner. (This should be done on a regular basis, even if budget cuts are not needed). I would ask the departments to cut out any excess and it would be important to try and do these cuts without a decrease in quality of services to the taxpayer.
6. Question: If you are elected to serve two terms, what is the single biggest challenge you foresee in the next eight years?
Stetson: The economy. If the revenue base of our county stays flat and if the national and state economies continue in a downward trend, we may all be in for some real challenges here in Moffat County. It may take years to sort out the current economic changes and the impacts that these changes might have on our county.
Steele: I am not sure you can narrow it down to a single biggest challenge. There are several related challenges that must be met and they all fall under the umbrella of fiscal management. We need to manage our money wisely. We need to stay on top of getting our share of the state severance tax monies. We need to fight to keep the state assessment of taxes on the power plant at a level rate, and, last but not least, we need to work to keep our local economy up so we have a prosperous county plus local tax monies to keep our county government progressive.
7. Question: Who have been the major influences in your life?
Steele: I believe the most major influence in my life was my father. He was one of the most intelligent people I have known even though his formal education was only through the 10th grade. He had a wealth of experience plus common sense that enabled him to make the right decisions for himself plus the county he was elected lead. He was Moffat County commissioner for 16 years. He also instilled in his sons the values we have today. Also, I can’t leave out the influence that my wife, Sharon, has had over my life for the last 40 years. She has been my wife, mother to my children, my companion and my business partner for a successful life here in Moffat County.
Stetson: The people that took time to guide as a youth parents, grandparents, coaches were very important. They helped me become a strong person. I value the “older generation,” there is so much to be learned from them. My children are also a major influence it is amazing what they can teach you. Children help me keep focused on what is important in life.
8. Question: In what ways do you think city and county government can partner on regional issues?
Stetson: I believe there is benefit to having city and county governments work together to deal with regional issues. Some of the regional issues facing us include water and drought, the impact of chronic wasting disease, economic development, transportation and growth, just to name a few. Some of these issues currently have partners, and some issues may have the need for partners in the future. Often it is a burden for just one entity to try and come up with solutions to address an issue. It helps to be able to share costs, ideas and manpower. I believe teamwork promotes more effective and more efficient solutions.
Steele: I think the most important cooperative venture that should be undertaken by Moffat County and the city of Craig should be in the area of planning and zoning. As we grow here the boundaries of the city will need to expand. When this happens it would be much easier if the area to be included was zoned and built to specifications that were compatible with the cities specifications. Perhaps a planning office of both city and county together would make this work smoother and save the taxpayers money. We also need to work together in the services areas of trash collection, landfill and water services to help serve those taxpayers as well as hold those costs down. We also need to work with the city of Dinosaur to help them with their emergency medical services as well as a cooperative law enforcement agreement.
Moffat County sheriff
Both candidates for Moffat County sheriff were asked to complete the following set of questions. Don Kroese chose not to participate. Sheriff Buddy Grinstead’s responses are as follows:
1. What was the last book you read?
Grinstead: The last book I read was ‘The Death of Innocence’ by John and Patsy Ramsey. The book I read before that was ‘Alaskan Bear Stories.’
2. What are the top concerns facing the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and how do you propose to address them?
Grinstead: My top concern is the budget. Each year when we present our budget we address our needs to board of county commissioners. The sheriff’s office is only a “piece of the pie” when it comes to the overall county budget. All elected officials and department heads want to make sure that as a county we are able to deliver services to the community that we are required to deliver. The only increase in budget items we have had every year is personnel costs. Their salary and fringe benefits (medical and retirement) costs are rising. The operating portion of our budget has been reduced every year and I am concerned that we will not be able to provide the necessary training for deputies (actually for all first responders) responding to homeland defense issues. These issues include responding to possible anthrax calls, or threats of nuclear, biological or chemical warfare.
3. Describe your philosophy and approach to law enforcement, i.e.. speed limit and DUI enforcement.
Grinstead: All officers in law enforcement have an obligation to enforce speed limits. Regardless of their location, if an officer witnesses a speeding violation that officer can’t “turn his cheek,” they must take action and contact the violator. My philosophy and approach in law enforcement regarding speeding is that when we enforce the speed limit it will hopefully have a direct impact on reducing the accident rate.
4. How do you assess the department’s cooperation with Craig Police, the Colorado State Patrol, and various local federal agencies?
Grinstead: Our level of cooperation with the other law enforcement agencies is outstanding. When another officer needs assistance or a deputy needs assistance from another department we are there to help each other. We have a mutual aid agreement in place with the police department and other sheriff’s departments. When the city needs help covering calls, and they request assistance we are there to help them. And the opposite holds true as well. If we need assistance they are there to help us. Through conversations with other sheriffs, chiefs of police and State Patrol captains, I know this type of good working relationship does not exist in many areas of the state. Five years ago I helped develop and implement a Critical Incident Team protocol used within the 14th Judicial District. The CIT involves the cooperation of all law enforcement agencies within the 14th Judicial District working together when an agency calls for assistance.
Our relationship with other agencies, including federal agencies, fire protection districts and EMS is outstanding as well. Three sheriff office employees are members of Craig Fire Rescue and two other deputies belong to the hazardous material team. Emergency Manager Clyde Anderson also works with the Haz-mat team and he has been successful in obtaining grants to help equip the Haz-mat team.
5. How can the department best maintain, or expand, the number of patrol deputies with a shrinking budget? With current funding, what should be the top spending priorities?
Grinstead: Currently the jail operates one staff position below the proper staffing level. This position was created when the Public Safety Center opened. But due to financial conditions in Moffat County this position will currently not be filled. Our road patrol division is currently operating at 1.5 positions less than in 1997.
The top spending priorities will remain the same every year I am sheriff. That priority is in providing training and equipment deputies need to safely perform their duties.
6. With last December’s attempt to place a pipe bomb at the Moffat County Courthouse, what can or should the department do to increase security?
Grinstead: The security at the courthouse is a major concern to me and to the community as well. When the sheriff’s office was located in the courthouse we were there and immediately responded to security issues. Since we have moved our security is a bigger issue not only for the sheriff’s office, but for the courthouse employees as well. We have held several meetings, provided different security options to the county commissioners on implementing different security plans at the courthouse. Our budget does not allow us to provide ongoing security services at the courthouse, nor does our current manpower allow us the freedom of stationing a deputy at the courthouse. New doors were installed, but that in itself created new security issues as well. The sheriff’s office will continue to respond to calls for service at the courthouse. But the bigger picture is having security at the courthouse. The bottom line is the responsible party for providing security at the courthouse is the county commissioners.
7. What’s the most important trait or asset of a good sheriff?
Grinstead: When I first took office as sheriff I implemented five core values at the sheriff’s office. These values honesty, integrity, loyalty, unity and accountability are expected to be followed by each employee. Not only do I believe in these core values, but I believe in leading by example.
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