The Republican and Democratic Central Committees of Delta County jointly hosted a candidate forum at Bill Heddles Recreation Center Oct. 2. Invitations were extended to 10 local and state candidates in five races. To keep the event moving, representatives from both parties sat down to brainstorm questions which were provided to the candidates in advance of the event. Over 50 questions from the public were compiled for the contested offices that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The format was a departure from traditional candidate forums, but served the same purpose -- to allow candidates to introduce themselves and for voters to learn more about their priorities for office.
The conference room at Bill Heddles Recreation Center was filled to capacity as Stacy Lowe (D) and Teri Stephenson (R) opened the dialogue. They are running for county clerk and recorder.
Based on a coin toss, Lowe began with her introduction. A Delta County resident for 10 years, she has owned a Paonia business for six and worked in health care prior to that for 13 years.
Stephenson is an incumbent who is completing her first four-year term as clerk and recorder.
Lowe was asked about protection of personal information. Her answer focused on how the current policies are satisfactory, but she would assess and make changes as needed to maintain privacy.
Stephenson was asked about increasing access to services for people who work 8-5 weekdays. Stephenson responded with services that are offered outside of the office such as a marriage and license kiosk, online documents and registration, mail ballots, extended voting hours and 24-hour dropboxes.
Asked about the best manner to publish the minutes of county meetings, Lowe said the most current online minutes are from August. With the technology available she wants to use Civic Clerk to simplify and automate meetings and keep constituents more informed.
Stephenson vowed to keep the public informed and educated, and expressed a desire for more outreach.
Lowe said she has a "vision of progressive change" involving a more digitized office offering a web-based citizen portal. She also wants to increase transparency by having audio or video streaming of commissioner meetings. She would like to see extended hours twice a week to make the office more accessible.
On the county level, the only other contested race is for Delta County commissioner, District #1.
Mike Lane, R, began with his introduction. He was born and raised in Delta and has an agriculture and banking background. Dick Gilmore, D, said he "quit a good job to move [to Delta]" and couldn't be happier.
Asked about the Master Plan, Lane acknowledged how much time and effort has been put into the plan and said the vision will be useful. However, he would like to see it shortened with more user-friendly language.
Gilmore was asked about the county's budget reserve. Additionally, the question asked, "At what point should unused money be given back to the taxpayers?"
Gilmore said he would have more roads paved or libraries funded, but only if there was certain to be no more economic troubles. He likes that Delta County plays it safe. Reserve funds, he explained, are also mandated by the state.
Lane was then asked what pet peeves he has about government at his level, but couldn't cite any.
Gilmore was asked about priorities. One is to see more diversity in the courthouse. Economic growth is also a priority.
Lane was asked his opinion on leasing public lands for oil and gas development. "Oil and gas provides revenue but needs to be done correctly," he said. For example, working closely and monitoring the companies would be a priority, as would working with those who are opposed.
In response to a question about climate change, Gilmore said climate change is real, and is in fact the gravest threat facing the human race today. He said it's important to make changes now because "soon it will be past the point of no return."
"Do you support marijuana retail stores and grow farms in Delta County?" Lane was asked.
He said the trade-offs of revenue would need to be examined and put to a vote before having it in the county. However, he said that when stores enter, crime goes up and the standard of living decreases.
"Do you support tax dollars being used for broadband in Delta County?" Gilmore was asked.
He explained that in today's age, broadband is necessary. "I think it was a brilliant move and a big step forward for this county," he said.
In response to a question about the local economy, Lane said thanks to broadband, many home-based businesses are helping bring in revenue. Delta County Economic Development is also working with three companies on coming to the area. "Things are happening to help our economy," he said.
Gilmore was asked, "How will you let the public know what you are working on as county commissioner?"
He responded saying his background in counseling and pharmacy helps him be a "communication specialist." In addition to what's already being done formally, he wants to have a simple letter to the editor or column once a month to help clarify what he does.