EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Courtney Holm said her clients have told her what Eagle County's greatest need is - jobs.
Holm, a Republican, is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Jon Stavney. The political system generally favors incumbents, but Holm said she wouldn't have taken on the job - and as a late entry to race after former candidate Shayne Mitchell withdrew in August - if she didn't believe she could win.
"I've climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and I was stuck in Gander, Newfoundland for four days over 9/11 (2001)," Holm said. "Running for commissioner isn't that big a deal."
Holm may be well traveled, but she's a local woman who's done well, born and raised in the valley. About the only time she's been gone for any extended period of time was for college and law school. She's been practicing in the valley since 2002, and has had her own practice since 2010.
Holm said she was asked by the local Republicans' candidate vacancy committee to consider a run this fall, and agreed to interview.
"A lot of the reason I came forward was my long history in the valley," Holm said. "And I've been disappointed in these commissioners."
While she's a late entry to the race, Holm said she's been reading "voraciously" about county issues, both news stories and county documents, as well as talking to people both inside and outside the organization.
"I've gotten to talk to a lot of really intelligent people so far," she said.
Finding new employers
In Holm's view, the biggest issue facing the county is jobs, and residents' ability to earn a living here. It's something she sees and hears about every day in her job, she said.
Holm said the county needs to do what it can to ensure businesses that were founded here stay here. The county should also be involved in helping recruit businesses - mostly likely smaller companies with between six and 10 employees.
"That creates housing demand and commerce," Holm said.
The county can help that process by making sure businesses don't have too many regulatory hurdles to open their doors here, and by working with towns and other local governments to draw new employers to the county, Holm said. And recruitment could include working with local chambers of commerce to send people to conferences and trade shows to put out the word that the county is a good place to live and work.
Beyond talking to residents, Holm said she grew up studying political science and similar subjects, and is a firm believer that "if things aren't going the way you think they should, you need to get involved."
Holm said technology also has a role to play in revitalizing the county's economy. That includes working with Colorado Mountain College, and local medical centers, she said.
"Let's focus on helping CMC become a destination," she said.
Interviewed the day after a candidate forum, Holm said that event reinforced her view that the current commissioners are out of touch with many residents.
Being out of touch, in Holm's view, includes the current commissioners' defense of the decade-old open space tax.
"It hasn't been what people envisioned," Holm said of the program, adding that she'd like to put the issue back to voters.
On the subject of finance, Holm knows the county is facing another drop in property tax revenue starting in 2014.
"We need to focus on core services," Holm said. She added that her understanding is that there are only three Eagle County sheriff's deputies on duty in the Basalt/El Jebel area, and wondered if that's adequate.
While jobs and opportunity top Holm's to-do list, there's only so much government can do on that front - job creation is, ultimately, a private-sector task. But the payoff comes to everyone.
"Increasing jobs will stimulate the economy, and that will boost real estate values," she said.
One way to stimulate the economy might be an international terminal at the county airport.
Holm said finding the initial funding to pay for an international terminal won't be a problem.
"The real issue is the markets - where are they?" Holm said. "We need to figure out what's sustainable, and we need to work with the resort companies and the chambers."
Ultimately, Holm said, county officials need to determine "if the numbers make sense."
The county should also be involved more in bringing events to the valley.
"We have enough facilities to bring a lot more people here," she said. "The chambers (of commerce) need support to do that."
Through good times and bad, Holm said the county government needs to continually adjust its own rules and regulations to adapt.
"We need to be cognizant of what works right now, and keep checking in," she said.
Holm has seen the housing market rise and fall, and said that experience - and the experience gained in a lifetime of living here, would make her a good county commissioner.
"I have specialized knowledge of the county," she said, including both work and recreational pursuits from hunting to cycling. "I talk to people from all walks of life every day.
"I feel sorry for the incumbent facing me."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.