Grand Country Dems discuss COVID, local health and party leadership

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by Marissa Lorenz
At the most recent regular meeting of the Grand County Democrats, agenda items included an update
on COVID-19 and vaccination in the county; party response to recent changes in county leadership; and upcoming party reorganization.

Local Party Chair Susan Newcomer of Fraser opened the virtual meeting Monday evening, encouraging all to make note of the “Christmas Star” in the evening sky. She then indicated that Abbie Baker, Deputy Director of Grand County Public Health, and Alexis Kimbrough, Deputy Director of GC Emergency Management, were in attendance to discuss Public Health plans around the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Newcomer advocated local party support for Baker as long-time Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue plans on leaving
the position in mid-January. Baker expressed thanks for the support and promised more information about what the future Public Health organization would look like.

Kimbrough provided an update on the Moderna vaccine, which had not yet arrived in Grand County. She explained the various phases and prioritization of vaccine administration, as set by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and Governor Polis’ office. She and Baker addressed specific questions on the topic.

Baker then proceeded to discuss herd-immunity, as potentially offered by the new vaccines, and the numbers that would be required in Grand County to reach “an adequate level” of widespread immunity, via vaccination. (A full article on vaccine distribution, which began Wednesday morning, can be found on pages 6 and 7).

Newcomer next invited party member John Riedel of Granby to continue the discussion on local public health leadership and the
idea of an independent board of public health for the county.

Riedel reported having had discussions with Belew-LaDue, Jen Fanning of the Rural Health Network, Grand County Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke, and at least one other physician. “There are a number of us who think it would make sense
to have a board of health–whatever that configuration might be.”

Baker confirmed that a five-member board of health is required in Colorado for all populations of at least 100,000. She indicated that it was recommended for smaller populations but not mandated. In Grand County, the three-member Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) also serves as the County Board of Health.

Newcomer welcomed David Porshoushtari, Communication Director of the Colorado Democratic Party, to discuss party reorganization. The entire four-member executive committee of the Grand County party will be stepping down and new leadership must be decided prior to February 15, 2021.

Porshoushtari noted that annual reorganization is the time when all positions are up for re-election in county parties, including precinct captains, and multi-district parties–such as House, Senate, and judiciary districts–as well as State Party executive positions. He encouraged active involvement and especially “new folks, new blood” in the party. The local party is also looking for someone to maintain their website on an ongoing basis.

The Colorado Republican Party will go through a similar process in electing local, district, and statewide leadership. The Grand County Republicans have an annual meeting in early spring at which this is normally determined. The Colorado GOP’s statewide election will take place by early April, 2021.

The monthly meeting concluded with Chair Newcomer asking for members to think about ways in which the party could support the replacement of the county manager, a position left vacant since the BOCC terminated the contract of previous Manager Kate McIntire on December 1. Long-time Assistant Manager Ed Moyer is now acting in that capacity and no hiring process has been announced by Commissioners.

“How do we encourage the support of a search committee and support the Board of County Commissioners in doing a solid search for a new county manager?” asked Newcomer. (…) “We want to be delicate, not dredging up things from the past but looking forward.”
Local party member and GC Planning Commissioner Ingrid Karlstrom of Fraser described previous efforts in which multiple committees conducted Round-Robin-style interviews with final candidates and open receptions were held for the public to meet and provide feedback.

The meeting adjourned with holiday well-wishes for all.