La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt has thrown her hat into the ring to run in 2016.
Lachelt, first elected in 2012, announced plans to seek a second term in District 2 on Thursday evening at Eno coffee, wine and tapas bar on East Second Avenue.
Raising a glass of punch dubbed “Orange Animas Mineral Blast” to toast a crowd of about 40, Lachelt reminded her supporters that they all gathered in that very place four years ago.
“I asked you, ‘Are you fed up? Do you want your county back?’” Lachelt said. “It was a resounding ‘yes.’”
Lachelt’s platform was based on “long-term planning and thinking,” and during her tenure she has been vocal, both during her campaign and after election, about rekindling efforts to develop and adopt a comprehensive land-use plan, which should be completed in 2016.
Her stance on the land-use plan has fueled much of her support.
“She’s always had a strong environmental stance and common sense about land-use regulation,” said Vernon Greif. “I live in the rural part of town off La Posta Road, where there is no land-use regulation.”
When Lachelt won her seat three years ago, the district had not had Democratic representation since 1993. Lachelt campaigned against Republican incumbent Kellie Hotter and won by 174 votes.
Lachelt said Thursday she prided herself and her colleagues on establishing a water advisory commission, supported a resolution to keep public lands public and formed a committee to address fiscal sustainability.
Before her election, Lachelt has played a significant role in establishing natural-gas regulations, and her influence extends beyond the county and state. Some supporters present at Thursday’s gathering came from as far as New Mexico, where Lachelt helped pass legislation to protect the state’s Valle Vidal from mineral extraction.
If re-elected, she said she will continue to tackle gas-pollution issues and simultaneously explore sources of alternative revenue for the county, which is facing a potential mill-levy increase of 2.4 mills.
“I have a broader understanding of how county government works and how to be effective in making certain issues priorities – by working with my fellow commissioners,” she told The Durango Herald. “When we referred the mill levy, we agreed this is an expensive place to live. It’s challenging to refer the measure to the ballot, but I believe it’s a modest increase that will go a long way to fund roads and bridges.”
Lachelt added that 2017 will be a challenging year for the county, which is having to learn how to “do more with less.”
District 3 County Commissioner Julie Westendorff announced her candidacy last week. District 1 representative Brad Blake took office last year and will not be up for re-election in 2016.