Commissioner

Kellie Hotter is smart, hardworking, experienced and energetic. She is possessed of a detailed and expansive knowledge of La Plata County and county government. And while she clearly brings a Republican sensibility toward government regulation and business, she is neither overly ideological nor unduly focused on any single issue.

La Plata County voters should re-elect Kellie Hotter.

Hotter has several priorities for her second term. As the incoming president of Colorado Counties Inc., she hopes to be a voice for the Western Slope and, more broadly, for improving county government and the state and federal legislation that affects it.

She also would defend county spending on roads and infrastructure from further budget cuts by insisting that, as she puts it, “not all departments are created equal.”

Hotter supports introducing refueling stations to serve vehicles converted to run on natural gas. With that, she also would look at converting the county’s fleet to use that cleaner-burning fuel.

And as might be expected from a good Republican, she puts a high priority on keeping the county debt-free and maintaining its stellar credit rating

But the central issue for Hotter will have to be how to move forward on county planning. She talks about the importance of improving the business climate and the “three-legged stool” of retaining, expanding and attracting businesses. In reality, though, the county’s primary role in economic development probably lies in land-use planning. Hotter says the current process is too cumbersome and capricious when what businesses need is predictability.

In general, that makes sense. But with such issues the details always are difficult. And for Hotter, it opens an unsettled issue.

The most damning and contentious episode of her tenure as commissioner had to be the collapse of the comprehensive plan. That episode cannot be laid solely at her feet – commissioners Bobby Lieb and Wally White share responsibility – but neither can it be ignored. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were involved as were countless hours of resident participation.

Hotter is too smart to try to pretend that train wreck somehow was a win. As she says, the process went awry. But she does offer hope for revisiting the comp plan and says that while the plan was shelved, it still exists, with usable components still intact.

Part of that hope lies in the fact that the county has a new county manager and a new planning director. But the problem last time ultimately was not the county staff, but that the commissioners allowed the process to spin out of control.

Hotter’s credibility and perhaps her future success lie in her handling of county planning – including the now-dormant comp plan. The predictability she rightly says investors require depends on that – and on whether she first can re-establish trust in the process.

She thinks she can. We think she should be given the chance to do so.

Opposing Hotter is Gwen Lachelt, another intelligent and energetic woman with a history of hard work on behalf of the community, her neighbors and the environment. But defending the interests of surface owners and the environment against excesses and bad practices in the gas industry has meant that she continually has been in opposition to that industry for decades.

That is a legitimate position for an activist or organizer. And in that role Lachelt has done good, important work. It is less valuable experience for leading a county that faces a broad array of diverse issues and that, while certainly concerned about gas development’s side effects, has precedent-setting controls in place and a good relationship with the industry.

Vote for Kellie Hotter for county commissioner.

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