Chamberland challenging Starr, so far
It may seem early but the race for the Board of County Commissioner (BOCC) seat currently held by Jim Starr is on. Starr, a Democrat, has held the seat for 12 years. At least one Republican, Phil Chamberland, has announced that he wants to challenge the incumbent.
Starr said he brings stability to the board in a time of change. “I’m running again because the county is in a critical time period as far as the economy and the recession. I think what we need is continuity and stability at this point in time and I think I can provide that,” Starr says. “I’ll also continue to support conservative fiscal policies in the county which I have promoted since I’ve been a commissioner.
“I think the experience I’ve had as a commissioner is important and through the years I’ve also developed positive and productive relationships with community leaders as well the state and federal delegations,” he continued. “I think that will be important for the county in the next two years.”
Starr mentioned conversations that he has had with the state and federal highway commissions to bring a road improvement project to the Taylor Canyon Road as soon as this summer. He has also been working with people to bring stimulus funding to the county that could provide low-cost funding for the jail and public works facility.
Starr was first elected County Commissioner in 1998 and has seen many issues come across the table. He says he has learned a lot during his tenure.
“One thing I’ve learned is that you have to listen to all points of view,” Starr says. “You have to take into consideration the short-term and long-term implications of the decisions you make, and always try to anticipate unexpected impacts of what you do. There are almost always unintended consequences.”
But county resident Phil Chamberland isn’t going to let Starr have the seat without a fight, and announced last week that he would also be running for the post.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. The timing is good for me now, whereas a few years ago family and children were going to come first,” Chamberland says. “As far as my daughter graduating, I’ll have more time to devote to it. There’s a lot on the plate for County Commissioners right now and I think the timing is right.”
Chamberland, although admittedly independent-minded, will be running as a Republican candidate.
Since moving to the Gunnison Valley in 1994, Chamberland has served on many area boards and commissions, including the Gunnison Fire Protection District, the county Planning Commission and the Gunnison Valley Hospital Board, as well as his current position with the Gunnison County Sno-Trackers snowmobile club.
“I think I would bring a fresh enthusiasm to the job,” Chamberland says. “I’ve been on so many boards and commissions and it seems like you have a learning curve to overcome, and then you have those first few years that you’re in these positions you typically devote a lot of time and enthusiasm. That could be used on things the county is dealing with.”
Chamberland operates Gunnison Valley Construction during the summer months, which he says would give him a unique perspective on county-specific issues like affordable housing, as well as providing an understanding of issues facing businesses.
“If I were fortunate enough to be elected, I don’t think initially you would see any real push to change everything right away,” Chamberland says, “although some things I would want to look at. I don’t see any major flaws in the processes that are going on now. I would like to see the board concentrate on what can be done for economic development and not spend a whole lot of time trying to run the county.”
There are currently no candidates registered with the county election department to enter the commissioner’s race; however, that will change after the Democrats and Republicans hold their respective caucuses on March 16.