By Owen Woods |

SAGUACHE County District 3 Commissioner candidates Liza Marron and Jeff Phillips stopped by Alamosa Citizen’s South Side Studio to have a round table discussion on the midterm election. Though the two aren’t strangers, this meeting was the first time the two candidates have met to discuss the race in a public forum. 

Touching on many subjects including water, economic viability and development of the county, the district attorney’s office budget request, and their motivations for running, Marron and Phillips agreed on most subjects and shared similar views on how Saguache county should be run. Their viewpoints rested on the health and wellbeing of the county’s people, water and agriculture. One of the candidates will be replacing current District 3 chair Tim Lovato. 

Policy and Issues

Starting with the Douglas County-sized elephant in the room, the round table discussion began by asking the two candidates if they supported the Renewable Water Resources groundwater exportation proposal. Both candidates agreed that the water of not just Saguache County but the entire Valley belongs here. Phillips said that because of 1041 regulations it makes it so “Valley water stays in the Valley.” While Marron said that because of the rich agriculture of the Valley everything is dependent on water. Both candidates do not support RWR’s water exportation scheme. 

A growing county
Marron and Phillips both saw the opportunity and inevitability of growth in their county, yet their views were somewhat more stark and nuanced. A richness in natural resources, tapping into the ag-tourism and wide open spaces, Marron wants to take a more proactive approach over a reactive approach. Citing the Dark Sky Reserve effort, Marron said that kind of proactive approach to ensuring the land stays as it is was vital. Pushing back, Phillips said that the Dark Sky Reserve should stay on the east side of the county because encompassing the whole county could harm regular agriculture processes such as night harvests and calving.

Phillips, wanting to “get ahead of the curve,” brought up a vital issue that he would like to change: a uniform building code in Saguache County. As reported in the Crestone Eagle in April of this year, commissioners have heard concerns regarding a proposal to set a 900 square foot minimum on new house construction. Phillips called the uniform code “long overdue.” 

How about Seven Peaks music fest? 
Phillips is a volunteer for Saguache County Search and Rescue and works with Northern Saguache County Fire District and EMS. This allowed him to work the event. Despite some of its noteworthy accidents, he called it a huge success. Both candidates said that the lack of communication and community involvement is where the event fell short. Marron said that the process to involve Villa Grove and hear their input happened far too late in the game. They would like to see it come back as long as there’s a larger push to involve the community. 

The 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Budget Proposal
Newly appointed interim district attorney Anne Kelly has been making the commissioner rounds requesting more funding for her office’s budget. Kelly has upped her proposal to $2 million. She says this is the “ethical” amount of funding necessary to ensure the office’s attorneys can handle the case load. Marron called the request “untenable” and supported Robert Willett’s run, noting that he can carry the office with a reasonable budget. Phillips said that Kelly made good points during her meeting with the Saguache County Commissioners and supported the idea of giving her what she needs to handle the case load. Both candidates agreed that there needs to be more accountability and a restoration of faith in the DA’s office. 

What motivates these two to run for local government? 
For Phillips, the future of the youth was his biggest motivation. Saying, “our kids are leaving.” He wants to find resources through the county so that the youth have opportunities to stay. “Let’s make that an option,” he said.  

For Marron, she wants to serve and provide opportunities for the entire population of Saguache County that supports the rural lifestyle. She’d like to restore trust in government and said true democracy exists at the county level. “We have our thumbs on the pulse of community,” she said. 

The candidates were asked to give a list of 3 issues they would like to address as commissioner. Marron listed: affordable housing; preserving water, soil health, and a viable agriculture process; and land use solutions to ensure that the county does not “criminalize poverty.” Marron made her case by noting her accessibility to call upon her experiences and extensive resources. She said she wanted to see Saguache County use its agriculture imagination going forward. 

Phillips listed: the uniform building code; less micromanagement of county officials and department heads, stating that if you can’t “trust your people, you don’t need ‘em” and the same goes, he said, for elected officials; and the support of more research and development of aquifer levels. Phillips wants to make sure the community is informed and made sure that he will be accessible to his constituents. He said that a “lopsided government” will make the people suffer. 

Make sure you are registered to vote. Mail-in ballots are slated to be sent out on Oct. 17. Election day is Nov. 8.