Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Three candidates are in the race to fill the District 3 Chaffee Board of County Commissioner seat being vacated by Commissioner Rusty Granzella (who chose not to run for re-election). While P.T. Wood is the sole Democratic candidate on the June 28 primary ballot, two Republicans are vying for the Republican seat to run against Wood: Dr. Alison Brown, and Brandon Becker.

Before ballots landed in mailboxes throughout the county, Ark Valley Voice (AVV) asked each candidate the same five questions about their decision to run and what they want to accomplish. But weeks have gone by and only one candidate has offered answers to AVV. So having waited for a lengthy period of time, we offer you candidate Alison Brown’s answers.

The questions:

  1. Why are you running for Chaffee County Commissioner?
  2. What is your strongest qualification as a candidate; what makes you the best candidate at this time for this role?
  3.  What do you want to accomplish should you be selected as a county commissioner?
  4. What is the greatest challenge facing Chaffee County and what solutions are you proposing to address it?
  5. Chaffee county Housing Authority (including the county, the towns of Buena Vista, and Salida) is in need of workforce housing and is considering many options to address the housing crisis. One option might be to put a ballot question before the people asking if they would agree with raising county property taxes to fund workforce housing. What is your position regarding the possibility that the Chaffee County Housing Authority may put a ballot question on raising county property taxes to fund workforce housing? Do you support it, or do you support another alternative and if  so, what is it?

Dr. Alison Brown is a candidate for Chaffee Board of County Commissioner in the upcoming June 28 primary. Courtesy photo.

Why are you running for Chaffee County Commissioner? 

Alison Brown: I love living here in rural Chaffee County where I live on a small ranch and work at a field office for my company NAVSYS.  I have also founded multiple local businesses1 and made many friends getting involved with different community activities including the Salida Sunrise Rotary. But, since moving here in 2011, I have seen Right to Ranch protection eroded threatening or rural agricultural businesses, and extreme over-regulation exercised by local government officials against multiple local business and land owners.

We live in a county where officials believe they can regulate access and use of public lands (both State and Federal), can redefine in Chaffee codes rights granted through Colorado Statute for agricultural protection, can arbitrarily interpret the land use code to deny property rights, and can change and retroactively apply code changes to take away citizens’ property rights, even to the extent of denying you occupancy in your house.   

I am running for County Commissioner because I believe that every citizen should have the freedom to build their American dream without undue Government interference.  I believe in smaller, fairer, more accountable government, and as Commissioner I will fight to defend citizens’ constitutional rights and restore ethics and accountability in Chaffee County government. 

 What is your strongest qualification as a candidate; what makes you the best candidate at this time for this role? 

Alison Brown: The citizens of Chaffee County deserve Government officials that they can trust to act fairly and responsibly and respect their constitutional rights.  Before deciding to run myself, I talked to others who were considering running for Commissioner and who shared my views on the need to restore ethics and accountability within our County Government.  Due to concerns they shared, that standing up against the “establishment” could adversely affect their businesses and livelihood, they decided not to run. Having seen “targeting” by Chaffee County against selected citizens, including myself, I can understand their reluctance. In my role as a small business owner, I have many times had to face bullying by both government organizations and big businesses.  I have earned a reputation for speaking “truth to power” which has, as a result of communicating my bad experiences, enabled changes to be enacted that have been beneficial for many other small businesses. 

I am not afraid to stand up for citizens’ rights, and take action when needed, which is why I filed a Constitutional lawsuit against Chaffee County for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. This suit will shed daylight on some of the egregious practices that Chaffee has taken against its citizens, which include changing regulations and then retroactively enforcing them. The County’s own arguments in this lawsuit defending its actions are chilling. Given the extensive changes to the land use code that the County is currently working on, all property owners should be concerned over whether Chaffee will respect their current property rights as required by the Constitution. My business leadership, along with my strong commitment to the oath to defend the Constitution, that I have taken many times before in my prior government roles, make me the best candidate to address serious issues within our County government that have been allowed to fester under our current leadership. 

 What do you want to accomplish should you be selected as a county commissioner? 

Alison Brown:  A top priority for me is to address ethics and accountability issues. I would work to assure Chaffee’s Conflict of Interest policy is uniformly followed, and I would assure that full reporting of all expenditures of public money be made available to the public.  

My next priority is addressing workforce housing needs. This is critical for supporting both our local workforce and business owners in order to allow them to grow our economy. In addition to the ongoing programs being run by Chaffee Housing Trust and Chaffee Housing Authority, I plan to propose options for landowners, to encourage them to take advantage of their already permitted right in recreational, rural and residential zoning to have an “Additional Single Family Dwelling” which can be used to provide workforce housing.   

Preserving our rural heritage and restoring protections for local farmers and ranchers is also a priority for me. I will engage with the Chaffee County Right to Ranch Board to restore their ability to support mediation to protect both small and large agricultural operations, including 4-H, in accordance with Colorado Statutes. I will also perform a review of the current County organization and staff roles, publish job descriptions that the public can access, and propose a plan for reorganizing the County to address staff shortages that are affecting economic growth, and also identify areas where traditional county staff positions, such as code enforcement, are missing in our current County organization. I would also review staff and board training material on their role as public servants to assure that they are fully informed on their responsibilities to protect citizens’ constitutional rights  

 What is the greatest challenge facing Chaffee County and what solutions are you proposing to address it? 

Alison Brown: Our current economy in Chaffee County is extremely dependent on the recreation industry. Long-term residents of Chaffee will recall the economic crash that happened when a major employer, the Climax Mine, closed in the 1980s. We need to “future proof” our economy to protect Chaffee against a single point of failure that could cause a catastrophic effect on our economy (think of the effect COVID had on the Recreation industry as an example).   

 Industries that I would immediately identify as being important to further develop are manufactured housing and technology jobs. We are fortunate in Chaffee that Fading West Building Systems have built a revolutionary factory in Buena Vista and provide both local employment and also badly needed workforce housing. Improvements in manufactured housing and Tiny Home design are dramatically changing affordable housing construction and this is a growth industry that I would encourage in Chaffee, not least to address our own critical workforce housing shortage.    

Regarding technology jobs, I would also set up programs to encourage members of the growing nationwide community of “Digital Nomads” to locate in Chaffee. These highly-skilled, location-independent workers can bring remote jobs to Chaffee County and also serve as role models to encourage local students to consider STEM related alternative career options. Research has also shown that each new high-tech job in the U.S. creates five additional jobs in the service economy, a significantly higher employment multiplier than either agriculture, recreation, construction or healthcare. Specifically, to grow and “future proof” our economy, I would provide leadership to start a Chaffee County “angel investor” group to provide financing for new business start-ups in our County, following models that have proved successful in other rural areas such as TechStart in Fremont County and the Greater Colorado Venture Fund.    

Chaffee County Housing Authority (including the county, the towns of Buena Vista, and Salida) is in need of workforce housing and is considering many options to address the housing crisis. One option might be to put a ballot question before the people asking if they would agree with raising county property taxes to fund workforce housing. What is your position regarding the possibility that the Chaffee County Housing Authority may consider a ballot question on raising county property taxes to fund workforce housing? Do you support it, or do you support another alternative and if so, what is it? 

 Alison Brown: I have placed workforce housing in my top priority list to address as a County Commissioner, but I do not support raising county property taxes to fund workforce housing. Given the economic impacts that this region has faced over the last few years from COVID, the last thing Chaffee citizens need at this time are increases in taxes.   

Colorado passed HB22-1117 in the last session which provides a much better option for Chaffee County to address the critical need for both workforce housing and access to childcare. This bill permits Chaffee, through a ballot initiative, to get voter approval to use existing lodging tax revenues to provide housing and childcare for the local workforce. Rather than a ballot question to raise county property taxes, I would support a ballot question, under the authority granted by HB22-1117, to allocate a percentage of the current approved lodging taxes, which total roughly $800,000 a year, to fund programs in Chaffee County to support workforce housing development and access to childcare. 

Should the other candidates answer our questions, Ark Valley Voice will provide their answers to the public.

Brown has also answered the candidate questions on Vote411.org, the only one of the three primary candidates to do so, although she faces Brandon Becker in the Republican primary.

Per League of Women Voters Vote Services Coordinator Scott Hartman, “Only candidates in local (Chaffee County) contested primary races were invited to participate by the local Vote411.org coordinator. On the Republican Primary Ballot, the race for Chaffee County Commissioner District 3 is the only contested office. There are no contests on the local Democratic side. Races, from Colorado State Representative up to U.S. Senator were handled by the state Vote411.org coordinator.”

Editor’s note: Brown has been an investor in Ark Valley Voice. She has no editorial input our control.