Meet the candidates
Who’s who in the race for La Plata County commissioner

The Durango Telegraph posed a series of questions to the three candidates for La Plata County commissioner. The responses are printed in the order they were received.

Name/Age: Bruce Baizel, 53

Occupation: Lawyer

Hobbies: Volleyball, horseback riding, hiking, skiing

Car you drive: Toyota Prius

Favorite local restaurant: Carvers for breakfast; Cyprus Café for dinner

Last book you read: T-Rex, by E. Morris, a biography of Teddy Roosevelt

If a CD got stuck in your car stereo, what would it be? “The Joshua Tree,” U2

Famous figure you most identify with: E.F. Schumacher, for his work on human scale economy

Dream vacation: Spring: A week to kick around Paris with my honey. Summer: A week basecamped below Summit Peak in the South San Juans. Fall: A week in Kenya, camped in the Masai Mara.

What is the biggest challenge facing La Plata County and how would you tackle it as county commissioner?

The biggest long-term challenge that I see is shifting La Plata County to become a leader in the production of renewable energy. Over time, our tax revenues from natural gas production will be decreasing. While we still have that revenue base, I think the county must begin looking for appropriate ways to support and enable residents and businesses to expand renewable energy production.

Existing forms of energy will continue to be volatile in price, and will likely be increasing in cost over the next decade. We have a natural advantage here in terms of solar potential, and we may have advantages in terms of wind, as well. We have decades of experience as a county in dealing with other types of energy production and we have a local electric coop that has experience with small-scale renewable energy production. The potential economic benefits to our county, in terms of jobs and tax revenue, could be significant. Success in this area would not only mark La Plata County as a leader for the future, but would also provide an avenue for our continued economic vitality without sacrificing the landscape that we depend on.

I see several potential roles for the county on this issue: continuing to explore the possibility of setup of an opt-in energy infrastructure finance district; sup

porting the development of a larger-scale renewable energy pilot project; making sure that our county land use plan does not put obstacles in the way of renewable energy projects; and working closely with LPEA on a careful evaluation of ways to use tariffs to encourage the building of renewable energy infrastructure.

Name/age: Kenneth Root, 57

Occupation: Professional engineer

Hobbies: Skiing, hiking, biking, classic cars

Car you drive: 2003 Toyota Tundra pickup 4

Favorite local restaurant: I have a number of favorite restaurants in Durango

Last book you read: N/A

If a CD got stuck in your car stereo, what would it be? “Hotel California,” The Eagles

Famous figure you most identify with: Unknown

Dream Vacation: Six months in Europe

What is the biggest challenge facing La Plata County and how would you tackle it as county commissioner?

One of the biggest challenges is to improve the planning process. The current code and attitude is not user friendly to the residents of La Plata County. My extensive experience as a professional engineer, land use agent, Planning Commission member and small business owner will provide leadership to the board and staff in accomplishing these goals.

Decisions made now will affect our long-term budget. A new land use code should be implemented to provide guidance for development, to encourage clustering and to reduce sprawl, which subsequently reduces road maintenance service, and fire protection and law enforcement cost. The new land use code should have provisions to encourage developers to build subdivisions near or in towns and concentrated areas that are more suited to provide utilities services.

La Plata County currently has a good economic plan in conjunction with the City of Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio, Ute Tribe, The La Plata Economic Development Action partnership (LEAD), and Region 9 Economic Development District. These economic organizations are critical to both our regional and local economies and will receive strong support from me as your next county commissioner. If the region is strong, we are strong as a community as well.

As your next county commissioner, I will provide citizens with user-friendly, consistent and efficient services. I have the skills to provide leadership to work toward excellence in all county practices. My background as a professional engineer will provide the county with years of experience in transportation, land use regulation, building codes, water issues, agricultural interest, and inter-government relations at the state, federal and local levels. I will serve with integrity, honesty and dedication that will represent all of the people regardless of political affiliation or ethnic background.

Name/Age: Robert “Bobby” Anthony Lieb, Jr.

Occupation: Currently not employed. Prior employment: Durango Commercial Development, LLC, manager; Durango Chamber of Commerce / La Plata Economic Development Action Partnership, executive director

Hobbies: Mountain biking, alpine skiing, coaching youth soccer, cooking

Car you drive: 2000 GMC Yukon

Favorite local restaurant: Picking a favorite restaurant in this town is like asking a little kid to go into Fuzziwig’s and only pick out one piece of candy. There really are too many great restaurants in town, satisfying any number of different cravings, so if I had to pick just one, it would have to be my own kitchen. I get to control the menu, and on any given day, it is the best meal in town.

Last book you read: The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

If a CD got stuck in your car stereo, what would it be? You guys ask some really tough questions. If I truly had to be relegated to just one CD it would be “Infidels” by Bob Dylan. I never get tired of that album.

Famous figure you most identify with: Through my adult life, I have not identified with or tried to emulate any one particular individual. Therefore, I need to resort back to my childhood when I idolized Ingemar Stenmark. In my opinion, he is still the greatest skier of all time. Off the snow, I was always impressed with his graciousness and humility under the spotlight, and how he was able to keep his personal life private. My classmates and I once had the chance to ski with him for a few runs on the local hill after school. He was very polite. I still have his autograph stored away.

Dream vacation: Any place where the locals are friendly, the food is good, and I can take long afternoon naps with my wife.

What is the biggest challenge facing La Plata County and how would you tackle it as county commissioner?

The biggest challenge facing La Plata County is the same challenge facing every community in America, and that is the current state of the economy. Even prior to the recession, this community’s critical flaw has been its inability to generate quality jobs and lasting career opportunities commensurate with the higher cost of living. Now we have been hit with a double whammy trying to hold onto the jobs we have, much less improving the overall economic landscape.

Turning the economy around, among other things, requires building confidence back into the private markets and ensuring that La Plata County is a safe investment, and a good place to do business. For La Plata County government to play its role, two things need to occur. One, the budget shortfall must be addressed directly, and without hesitation. Levels of service must be brought into line with the new budget reality, and expectations must be properly communicated with county residents. Secondly, is the passage of a fair, reasonable, and predictable land use code. Existing and new businesses alike are overly frustrated with the ambiguousness of the current code and land use application processes. Certainty needs to be built into code so that property rights are more clearly defined, and urbanizing and rural lifestyles shall be identified and respected, and need not infringe upon each other or be defined by one type of uniform code. •



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