The six Democratic candidates for two open seats on the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday night in Telluride for a public forum ahead of the June 28 primary elections. 

The forum, hosted by the Progressive Women’s Caucus of the San Juans and KOTO Radio at Rebekah Hall, came after another last week in Norwood. The forum moderators, Norwood Post editor Regan Tuttle and KOTO news director Cara Pallone, asked the candidates about affordable housing, transportation, the environment and their experience and leadership styles, among other topics. Full audio of the forum is posted online at koto.org/off-the-record-archives/

Jill Masters, Brian Ahern, Hilary Cooper and David Oyster are candidates for the Democratic nomination in District 1, which mostly includes Telluride. There are no candidates in other parties for the District 1 seat, which was formerly held by Elaine Fischer, who passed away last month, and is currently held temporarily by Amy Levek. In District 3, which includes Sawpit west to the Utah border, Mike Kimball and Kris Holstrom are the two Democratic candidates. Terri Snyder Lamers is the Republican nominee in District 3. Though candidates must reside in their district, all county voters elect each commissioner.

When asked what they would bring to the county that the other candidates couldn’t, each discussed his or her particular experience and expertise. 

Oyster talked about his decades as a documentary filmmaker.

“To make a documentary film requires learning a whole lot of new information, digesting it and then finding out a way to tell it to an audience,” he said. “In a way, that’s what this job is. I want to create new stories for San Miguel County.” 

Ahern highlighted his “youthfulness and eagerness to hit the ground running,” and touted his experience on volunteer boards and commissions in recent years. 

Cooper said she doesn’t like campaigning, and has instead simply “started doing the job. That’s what I know how to do. I like to make things happen.”

She added that she has begun meeting with different government staff and other community leaders, has attended meetings and has begun crafting concrete plans for various initiatives. 

Holstrom said the county was lucky to have so many qualified candidates running, but one thing that sets her apart is her agricultural experience as the owner of Tomten Farm. 

“I have a lot of dirt under my fingernails,” she said. “I’m an innovator and an educator. I’m good at making connections with people, and I have a strong desire to create jobs.” 

Masters said her experience as both a realtor and a paramedic gives her skills other candidates don’t have. 

“I can be creative and can work well with others. I know how to lead, and I know I can always do something better — there’s no ego in that,” she said. 

Kimball, who has worked for nearly four decades in the county road and bridge department, touted what he called his leadership and management skills. He said he has solved problems across the county, “from floods in the valley to avalanches in Ophir,” and has managed employees and volunteers throughout his professional life. 

Read all of The Daily Planet’s 2016 election coverage, including interviews with each candidate, at  bit.ly/tridevotes2016.