With Archuleta County now officially short a commissioner, two Republican men are vying for the vacant office of Archuleta County Commissioner, District 1 — Bob Hart and Steve Wadley.
John Ranson’s resignation as commissioner for the district was effective Wednesday, April 6.
Applications to fill the vacancy created by Ranson’s resignation were due to the Republican Vacancy Committee — the entity statutorily charged with filling the position — by March 31, with only Hart and Wadley throwing their names in the hat.
The newly appointed commissioner, due to be appointed by April 15, will serve the remainder of Ranson’s term, which ends January 2013.
Both candidates for the position have pledged, as a requirement of the application, to run for District 1 County Commissioner in 2012.
Each candidate has run for office in Archuleta County, with both losing those bids for office.
Hart lost an election bid for District 3 County Commissioner to unaffiliated candidate Michael Whiting last November , with Whiting receiving 2,874 votes and Hart tallying 2,132.
In his application cover letter, Hart acknowledges that he does not currently reside in District 1, but plans to move should he be appointed.
“I have been a legal resident of Archuleta County for the past 11 years. I have verified the requirement with County Attorney Todd Star [sic] and will move my residence to District 1 by the time I take office if selected. I have been a registered Republican for the past 35 years.”
Wadley lost a bid for sheriff in the August 2006 primary election. In that Republican primary, current Sheriff Pete Gonzalez tallied 1,186 votes, Wadley recorded 610, and a third sheriff candidate, Bob Grandchamp, notched 258 votes.
Issues facing the county
The two applicants hoping to fill the chair next to Commissioners Clifford Lucero and Michael Whiting were asked as part of the committee’s selection process to write an essay concerning the top three issues in Archuleta County and their plan to address those issues.
Hart’s number-one is an expected drop in property tax revenues — a drop he calls “drastic.”
In addressing the issue in the essay, Hart wrote that taxpayers deserve accountability and that, just as private businesses and taxpayers have had to cut expenses, the county needs to do the same.
Hart also recommends that the county adopt a budget policy similar to that of the town, in which a revenue drop of 10 percent would require a budget cut of 15 percent, a revenue drop of 15 percent would signal a budget cut of 20 percent, and so forth.
Hart says he will ask all county departments for cost-saving ideas in addition to the budget policy, but wrote, “As revenues decrease we will be ready and have a plan in place of where to cut expenses accordingly. The County is big business and needs to be run like a business.”
Wadley’s number-one issue, on the other hand, is transparency in the decision-making process, using two recent incidents as examples: “The hiring of Steve Vassallo and the $1 land lease are two of the decisions that have ignited this issue into a ‘smoky-back-room’ appearance of unscrupulous deals, true or not.”
Further, Wadley wrote that commissioners need to take all steps possible to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest by recusing themselves from votes and discussions on contracts and policies affecting current or past business interests.
“The ethics of Commissioners must be beyond reproach. It is not enough to walk a tightrope of legality,” Wadley wrote.
Hart’s second issue is a need for more private sector jobs and a growing economy.
In addressing the issue, Hart lists seven steps, including creating a business environment encouraging of free enterprise and entrepreneurship; eliminating red tape and applying business training assistance to potential and existing businesses; providing tax incentives and rebates for new and existing businesses for job creation; encouraging tourists to bring businesses to the area; adjust business property valuation assessments to be determined partly by a financial-based appraisal; recruiting retired business people to mentor and assist local businesses; and investing for future economic strength.
Wadley’s second issue is the condition of the roads.
Wadley states that the county has been collecting a higher mill levy under ballot issue 1A since 2006 (in fact, ballot measure 1A lowered the mill levy, but allowed the county to keep revenues above TABOR limits through a process called “de-Brucing”), but that the roads seem no better and the residents of the county want to know the county is optimizing 1A revenue.
Wadley also states that the county needs to “give thought to any and all options, from privatizing to more metro districts. It might be possible for metro districts to timeshare some large equipment and purchase materials as a co-op.”
Wadley also stated that the commissioners and county need to work closely with the Road Advisory Task Force.
Similarly, Hart ranked roads as his third serious issue.
In his explanation, Hart claims to be the primary proponent of the county’s recently contracted five-year road plan, to be updated annually. Hart also says his experience and understanding of road construction will benefit the county.
Further, Hart cites examples from his work on the RATF in saving county money by examining gravel roads scheduled for gravel and finding the money to produce the road plan.
Hart ends his answer with a pledge to, “drive and observe every mile of County roads before June 1, 2011 so that I will have current hands on knowledge of all road conditions.”
Wadley’s final issue is the property tax revenue drop predicted for 2012, calling it an “impending budget crisis.”
In his response, Wadley estimates a reduction in property tax revenues of about $1.6 million and commends the current commission on its strategy to establish a reserve fund to “soften the blow that is, no doubt, just around the corner.”
Wadley further states that the commissioners should only approve expenditures vital to provide county services or to generate cost-effective revenue in the near future.
Finally, Wadley suggests that other sources of revenue, though controversial, be considered — a “big-box” store or oil and gas wells.
In addition to the essays, the candidates were required to submit resumes with their applications.
Hart’s resume touts his current company, Hart Construction, as well as Hart’s Rocky Mountain Retreat and construction and chimney sweep businesses started by Hart in Texas in the 1970s and ’80s.
Additionally, the resume includes an entertainment holding company in Texas, R.M. Hart of Texas, that Hart writes he sold upon moving to Pagosa Springs, and a residential trash removal and snow plowing service Hart began while in high school.
Hart’s professional organizations include the Town Tourism Committee, of which he is chairman, and past memberships and activities in the National Chimney Sweep Guild and Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Wadley’s resume reveals work in professional mediation most recently, with prior work with the Albuquerque Police Department, for which he commanded the criminal investigations division, among other positions held.
Wadley’s resume shows work at an Albuquerque supermarket beginning in high school, reaching assistant manager.
Wadley’s resume touts a variety of appointments from his time in Albuquerque, as well as listing such things as the Archuleta County Human Services Citizen Review Board, Archuleta County Court bond reduction volunteer, GED proctor and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, among other volunteer work.
Though the selection process is not an election, residents of Archuleta County will have a chance to hear both Hart and Wadley speak, as well as being afforded an opportunity to ask the candidates questions, at a town hall-style meeting tonight, April 7, at 6 p.m. at the Extension building at the Archuleta County fairgrounds on U.S. 84.
Should the vacancy committee fail to appoint a commissioner by April 15, the charge would fall to Gov. John Hickenlooper.