After serving a year as a San Miguel County Commissioner, I’d like to share a rookie’s thoughts and observations. In a sentence: The work is fascinating. The problems brought before government usually don’t have easy answers. Finding solutions requires my utmost in listening and communication skills. Creative thinking, compromise and collaboration are critical. Long — occasionally stormy — meetings are part of the job. Sometimes my patience is tested because democracy takes time, and government grinds slowly by design. But it does move forward.

A portion of our time in 2019 was spent hiring key personnel. We held extensive searches to find a new county planner and a new manager. Planner Kaye Simonson and manager Mike Bordogna are now settling into their roles. I expect great things from both. And, after some unfortunate but unavoidable delays, Grace Franklin was hired as the new public health director. She starts in mid-February.  

I’ve been impressed — if not stunned — by the breadth and scope of the job. The commissioners and San Miguel County staff are engaged in a myriad of local, regional, state and national issues. For example, in the months leading up to ratification in December, the commissioners reviewed and adopted a budget for 2020 that continues to provide all essential county services and address critical long-term infrastructure needs, including a jail expansion with separate facilities for clientele with behavioral health or substance abuse issues. 

Also in December, commissioners and staff met with Ophir citizens to discuss road maintenance issues. We convened with scientists and representatives from state and federal land management agencies to discuss how best to protect the threatened Gunnison sage-grouse population. We spoke with CDOT about various issues, including the loss of parking at the west end of the Valley Floor. (Unfortunately, we learned there’s no easy way to bring it back so we’re researching alternatives.) And we were in close contact with our federal representatives asking for their support of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. I could list many more meetings and actions, but my point is that the commissioners are involved in a number of wide-ranging conversations, all focused on protecting and furthering the interests of county residents.

San Miguel County also holds membership in several organizations composed of various Colorado counties. In early December, the commissioners traveled to Colorado Springs for a conference hosted by Colorado Counties Incorporated to network with other commissioners from around the state. We discussed challenges, shared solutions and learned current best practices from our colleagues. 

Speaking of colleagues, I’m lucky to work with my two fellow commissioners, Kris Holstrom and Hilary Cooper. Both are committed, hard working and whip smart. I’d describe the entire county staff in similar terms. I’m grateful to everyone on the team for making the time to answer questions and help get my feet underneath me. 

Our county is blessed with governing structures and quality staff that allow the commissioners to look long term. Highlights of our 2020 goals include maintaining long-term financial stability, participating in regional housing and economic development, improving fiber optic connectivity, and becoming a carbon-neutral organization as soon as possible. We are focused on these goals while simultaneously keeping our eyes on the county’s day-to-day operations. 

As a commissioner, I’m committed to ensuring our county’s residents are healthy and flourishing and that our communities are safe and vibrant. I thank you for your trust. I’ll continue to do my very best in 2020. If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please contact me at lancew@sanmiguelcountyco.gov.