Week 1, candidates were asked: Please introduce yourself to the community in 250 words or less and explain why you are running for this position. Candidate responses are unedited.
My name is James Newberry and I am running for the office of County Commissioner for District 1. I want to guarantee that Grand County receives every benefit it won in the water negotiations with Denver Water and Northern Water Conservancy District which includes the Windy Gap Bypass, the lynchpin to reconnecting the Fraser and Colorado Rivers and the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Saving the Fraser and upper Colorado Rivers.
I have been involved in the community since I came here in 1980, coaching and officiating in the recreation league all the way to the high school level. I was elected to the FVMRD Board and during my tenure the Sports Complex was constructed and nine holes of golf were added to Pole Creek without a tax increase.
I was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1996, within six years the county was debt free. During my service we built a new maintenance shop in Fraser, upgraded the jail, constructed the Judicial Center and remodeled the Administration Building, upgraded the rodeo grounds in Granby and Kremmling, made major improvements to both airports, established a full time Veterans Service Office, expanded EMS to a high professional level, and supported the Sheriff’s Department, Search and Rescue and first responders all with no tax increase. I will again bring this same concern for the tax dollar to the budget. In addition, I was heavily involved in obtaining a permanent conservation easement on the land between Tabernash and Fraser.
Editor’s Note – Commissioner Candidate James Newberry submitted a correction: “I have the EMS upgrade was done with no tax increase. That is not correct. A mill levy was passed for the upgrade.”
Week 2: Many people don’t understand the job of county commissioner. How do you see the job’s responsibilities and what are your qualifications for the office?
The job of a commissioner is Leadership. Leadership is providing for the health, safety and welfare for the people of Grand County. The budget is the limiting factor as to the level of services the county can provide. I have been through many budgets, during the good times and bad, and feel my experience will help us get through these tough times. I will also represent Grand County at the local, state, and federal level as I have so many times in the past.
Week 3: 1. Campaigns often promise change. What changes would you want to see in the next 4 years if elected?
Open and respectful communication with the public and employees.
2. How would you prioritize the budget dollars and work with your fellow commissioners to make these a reality?
Health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Grand County. As stewards of the tax dollars, it is the duty of the Commissioners to be proactive, not reactive, when budgeting. If the commissioners agree on a plan that not only looks at next year’s budget but 3 to 5 years down the road, working together is achievable.
Week 4: 1. How will you balance the needs and wants of county departments while working with a finite budget?
I believe a commissioner’s most important role is to set and implement a budget to provide for public safety, infrastructure, healthy rivers and lakes, and a thriving economy. These services make Grand County a great place to live and raise a family. When I look at a budget I first look at the revenue. My simple way of setting spending limits. I break out the known revenue; taxes, fees, state and federal backfill money etc. I budget day to day operations from those monies. The majority of sales tax goes to capital improvements for all departments.
2. What criteria will you prioritize needs and wants?
Needs and wants are put into a five year plan, that all departments participate in, that can be adjusted. Needs are the tools needed to do the job employees are tasked with in a safe environment. Simple, conservative, open process.
3. If new resources were available, what one area of county services would you feel most need additional resources?
New resources / money could be directed towards building up a reserve fund that can be used in case of emergencies and protection of citizens. A healthy fund balance allows quick action and can eliminate the need to go to the electorate for tax relief. As an example, this is how the Judicial Center was built and Administration Building remodeled without tax increase and paid off well ahead of time saving interest.
4. Should any parts of the county budget be shielded from cuts? If so, which area?
No part of the county budget should be shielded from cuts. However EMS has a dedicated mill levy as does Road and Bridge. Those funds should be used entirely for the needs of those departments. I have always supported and tried to provide quality equipment to the Sheriff, EMS, and Road and Bridge as they are the front line for the health and safety of the citizens and visitors of Grand County.
Week 5: 1. Grand County has not updated its land use and zoning codes to deal effectively with current development pressures. Do you have a plan
to accomplish this task?
Land use should be addressed through the master plan, zoning is a private property right which is dealt with individually.
2. Should Grand County taxpayers continue to fund the Windy Gap bypass project in view of the fact this Colorado River issue was created by eastern slope water users?
There is a minimal amount of grand County tax dollars going towards the bypass project. Grand County needs to stay involved to see the project through.
3. Is it the role of the Commissioners to help encourage development and building? If so, what measures can the county do to help development and building?
The market drives demand for development. It is governments role to take care of infrastructure.
4. When managing public agencies, is it better to have more employees at a modest wage or few employees at a wage high enough to attract quality applicants?
I prefer fewer employees at a competitive wage.