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Publish Date: 10/8/2006

Listening is key to winning District 2 commissioner seat

Weld County desperately needs a leader who can listen, say all three candidates seeking to represent District 2 as a Weld County commissioner. Who that elected listener should be, however, is where those candidates disagree.

Democrat Rich Lopez, who owns a print shop in Greeley, believes commissioners haven’t listened to municipal growth concerns and says he’d start holding regular office hours if elected.

“I’d also go to the Tri-Towns every two weeks,” he said. “I think you have to.”

Lopez, a Democrat in a predominantly Republican county, said he’d reach out across party lines but could also make tough decisions when warranted. As an example of his political integrity, Lopez said he voted against the best man in his wedding, Bill Gillard, when he ran for Greeley mayor. Incumbent Mayor Tom Selders simply offered more, he said.

Republican Doug Rademacher, a third-generation Mead-area farmer, holds the current commissioners in high regard, but he has already begun a diplomatic tour of southwest county towns to learn why local leaders have become so disenchanted with them.

“I hope to find out what their major concerns are and to see if we can find any common ground with the (mixed-use development area) issues,” he said of the unincorporated zone where county and town leaders have long haggled over growth.

Rademacher and his family farm 1,700 acres in the county but have had to sell considerable land and water rights in recent years to stay in business. The family recently sold property to the unincorporated St. Vrain Lakes subdivision north of Firestone, where 5,000 homes will soon be built. If elected, he said, he would protect farmers’ rights to develop but also would defend their right to farm.

Independent candidate Sharon Socher, a scientist who owns a robotics company, said current commissioners represent only the interests of large property owners.

“Someone needs to stand up for all residents regardless of the size of the property they own,” she said. “I would try to alleviate the antagonism between the municipalities and county.”

Socher said she’d also stimulate commercial growth in southwest Weld County’s District 2 to keep it from becoming a strictly bedroom community. Urban-scale development belongs in municipalities, not in the MUD, Socher said, and urban zones should be buffered with agricultural lands, parks and trails to maintain a high quality of life.

Glenn Vaad currently holds the District 2 seat, but he is term-limited. He is running to represent state House District 48 in November.

On Oct. 9, the Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce will host a debate for all Weld County commissioner candidates, including Duane Leise and Bill Garcia, who are running for the at-large seat. The debate starts at 7 p.m. at Frederick Senior High School, 600 Fifth St., Frederick.

Ben Ready can be reached at 303-684-5326, or by e-mail at bready@times-call.com.

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