Looking for geographic and professional diversity
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
Gunnison County commissioners on Tuesday appointed three newcomers to vacancies on the county planning commission after an extended application and interview process last month. Overall, commissioners agreed on a top group of candidates that were from diverse professional backgrounds and weighed under-represented areas more heavily among the final contenders.
Melanie Miller, who lives in the north end of the valley just south of Skyland, was appointed as a regular member to replace A.J. Cattles. Cattles stepped down with one year left in his three-year term. Beth Appleton and Julie Baca were appointed to fill two alternate positions. There were nine candidates overall, and five finalists.
Commissioners all agreed that while knowledge of and familiarity with the county’s Land Use Resolution (LUR) is very helpful, they no longer feel the need to prioritize building industry professionals as much as people with the skills to learn the LUR and the temperament to remain neutral in most cases that come before the commission.
Miller’s mining background was considered a unique and relevant perspective for the regular commission seat. Commissioner chairperson Jonathan Houck said that given new, upcoming legislation addressing oil and gas regulations and other market-driven changes that are happening, “We are looking at transitions from extractive industries, and understanding the social capital that connects us in Gunnison County with those mining industries will be important.”
Appleton is an attorney who lives in CB South and Baca works for Western Colorado University and lives in Almont; commissioners agreed representation from each of those geographical locations would benefit and balance the board, given other qualifications each brought to the table as well. “It shows the strength of the community,” said Houck of the strong group of candidates.
The planning commission has seen turnover of five seats this year. Vince Rogalski was reappointed in January and two previous alternates, Andy Sovick and Scott Cox, were chosen to become regular members at the same time to fill vacancies. The resignation of Cattles in late January prompted commissioners to re-open the application process for one more regular board appointment and two remaining alternate seats.
Commissioners also finalized appointments to uncontested (and mostly reappointed) positions on the Environmental Health board, Region 10 committee, Strategic Gunnison Sage Grouse committee and Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committee.