Three Republican candidates have announced their intention to run for the District 1 seat on the Montezuma County Commission in the 2018 election.
Jim Candelaria, Charlie Rosenbaugh and incumbent James Lambert will face off in the June 26 Republican primary. The winner will be the Republican Party candidate for the commission position in the November election. The candidates talked to The Journal about their plans.
Candidate Jim Candelaria has a background in firefighting and construction. He also serves on the Cortez Sanitation District board.
At his rural home, he’s testing soil in preparation for growing an experimental hemp crop, a product he believes could help diversify the local economy.
“We can no longer just rely on oil and gas here,” he said. “By legalizing hemp, our state Legislature has given us an amazing opportunity to be leaders in a new agricultural industry that will help sustain our economy.”
Hemp is an industrial crop used for clothing, rope, fuel, oil and medicine.
Candelaria plans to obtain a state permit to plant 5 acres of hemp and harvest the flowers to be processed into cannabidiol oil, a non-psychoactive concentrate used for medical and therapeutic products.
“I don’t want to say ‘go do this’ without trying it myself,” he said. “I want to learn from my test crop and help pass that knowledge on.”
Candelaria wants to “return the county back to its agricultural roots” through new crops like hemp and by promoting the revival of the local apple orchard industry.
He is willing to consider adjusting the county’s ban on commercial marijuana grow facilities to allow for commercial medical marijuana only.
“It would generate tax revenues, and considering the opioid addiction crisis, we should not restrict the benefits of medical cannabis for our cancer patients and others with pain, including our injured veterans,” he said.
He also supports the current focus on outdoor recreation, including the proposed nonmotorized Paths to Mesa Verde Trail and the motorized Rimrocker Trail.
“A recreation economy is good for the well-being of our county, and I will keep moving forward with those projects in a financially responsible way,” he said.
Candelaria said he understands the risk of invasive species in our lakes, and took a proactive stance by recently becoming certified to inspect boats for mussels at Groundhog Reservoir. He said he has the “negotiating skills and leadership” to find solutions to improve boating access at local lakes, while protecting them from mussels. “I have the energy and passion to serve as a county commissioner,” he said.
Charlie Rosenbaugh says his diverse work experience makes him the best candidate to serve as county commissioner.
He was a Colorado State Patrol trooper for 12 years, worked 16 years for Shell Oil and Kinder Morgan, was the county coroner for 12 years, and put in 23 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Cortez Fire Protection District.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of organizations, understand budgets and the various needs of the county,” he said. “A high priority for me is to make sure our law enforcement and emergency services have the tools they need to protect the public.”
He said keeping the CSU Extension office and 4-H Club viable is another priority because “keeping kids involved with agriculture is good for our future.”
Rosenbaugh said he’s concerned about the restricted boating access at McPhee Reservoir and other popular lakes due to the invasive mussel scare.
“Improving access is important for the economy,” he said. “By charging boaters $2 to $5, we could raise funds for more boat inspection stations and longer hours of operation. We need to think creatively to solve this issue.”
He wants to put out the welcome mat for new businesses and would investigate whether the county could offer more incentives to lure companies to build here.
Improving broadband Internet service is an important aspect of improving the local economy, he said.
“Our internet service needs improvement if we are going to compete for new businesses,” he said.
To help pay for improved infrastructure, he would consider a small sales tax, because then everyone pays not just property owners.
He also said the proposed Paths to Mesa Verde project should not be a priority.
“With our $1 million budget deficit, I don’t see more trails as that important. We have other more important issues to deal with such as maintaining our roads and keeping wages competitive to keep qualified workers.”
James Lambert, of Pleasant View, is running for a second term as county commissioner. He has a science degree from CSU and worked for 37 years in farming and light industry. He’s served as a volunteer firefighter and was on the original board that formed the Montezuma Water Co.
“I running again because I want to complete projects we have been working on,” he said. “This job takes time to learn, and now I’m in a good position to see things through.”
Lambert fought to have the Dolores-Norwood Road transferred to the county from the San Juan National Forest, claiming it was in place before the forest was formed.
He wants to see that effort through, “so we can take better care of the road.” Under county ownership, fees for commercial traffic charged by the National Forest would be dropped, and it would be opened up to ATV use per county road policy.
Under Lambert’s term, the county commission successfully pressured the National Forest to move forward with providing a permit for a new marina on McPhee Reservoir. If elected to a second term, Lambert said, he will push for expanding the current breakwater, which is needed to calm the waters at the marina.
Utilizing natural resources is the best way to improve the local economy, Lambert said. In his second term, he would advocate for lumber mills to locate to Montezuma County.
“To get there requires convincing forest officials to offer larger timber sales in order to attract companies willing to invest here,” he said.
A hundred years ago, timber was a viable industry and there were more mills.
“Now we can repeat that because the trees have grown back and given us another economic opportunity for logging,” he said.
As commissioner, Lambert helped initiate the fleet system for county vehicles. Repairs and maintenance are now done in-house.
“It is much more efficient, and we were able to reduce the fleet, save money, and keep our county vehicles in better shape,” he said.
He credits the current commission for working well together and supporting key county services such as roads, the county landfill and recreation.
“Our roads are in better shape than ever before, and we are doing more to improve them through chip sealing and paving projects,” he said.