Scott N. Miller

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November 7, 2012
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Stavney re-elected commissioner

Incumbent Democrat Jon Stavney won a second term on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

According to preliminary results Tuesday night, Stavney was leading with about 77 percent of the county's "active" voters counted.

Republican challenger Courtney Holm faced an uphill struggle in her first run for public office. Stavney was a member of the Eagle Town Board for 10 years before being elected county commissioner in 2008. Holm, a local attorney, entered the race in early August after former candidate Shayne Mitchell abandoned his candidacy.

Stavney said he was impressed with Holm's showing.

"She's done amazingly well for someone who started eight weeks ago," Stavney said.

Holm, campaigning Tuesday afternoon outside Avon Town Hall, said she's "had a ball" in her first run for office.

With Stavney on his way to a second term, he said he wants to continue the commissioners' efforts to build a senior care center in Eagle, as well as continue the county's current open space program.

While Holm and fellow Republican Jeff Layman - who lost the District 1 commissioner seat against Democrat Jill Ryan - had talked at length about sending the county's open space tax back to the voters, during the campaign, other residents said they wanted the open space fund maintained.

Stavney said he's also ready to continue the commissioners' efforts to expand the Eagle County Regional Airport - particularly in finding a way to create an international passenger terminal for commercial flights.

And, he said, he and the other commissioners learned Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service had signed off on the Eagle Valley Land Exchange, a complex deal involving the county, the town of Avon, the Forest Service, and three state agencies.

"They were last to sign off on it," Stavney said of the Forest Service decision. "That's a real positive step."

The District 1 race was still close as of 11 p.m. Tuesday when Ryan eventually pulled ahead. The next board - Stavney, Commissioner Sara Fisher and Ryan - will still have some serious challenges ahead.

The county - along with virtually every other county agency that relies on property tax revenue - took a hit in its 2012 budget with a roughly 20 percent drop in property valuations. All those governments and agencies are looking at another drop in revenue starting in 2014.

"We're still in a period of retraction," Stavney said. "The fact that we can still do some of these strategic things - if this was a private company, you'd want to invest in it."

Three-way county commissioner races are fairly common in Eagle County.

So are the results: Someone from one of the two major parties always wins. In this case, it was Democrat Jill Ryan prevailing over Republican Jeff Layman.

Layman held a slim lead for much of the night in preliminary vote counts, with Ryan pulling into the lead in the late hours.

Earlier in the evening, it looked as if the race would end up in mandatory recount territory - a difference of 1 percent or less in the initial count.

Left out in the tight race was independent Dale Nelson, who, as of the 1 a.m. report election night, had earned just more than 1,900 out of nearly 19,700 votes.

Despite the result, Nelson said his campaign was still worth the time and effort.

"I guess I just needed to campaign harder," he said.

Nelson got into the race as an independent because he's been an unaffiliated voter for more than a decade, and said he's disenchanted with the country's two-party system.

"I really thought this could be a good year for an independent - there's so much polarization," Nelson said. On the other hand, that polarization in some cases meant people just voted a straight party-line ballot.

"One lady I talked to didn't even know who she was voting for - she was just voting for the party," Nelson said.

Still, Nelson said, he hoped he helped affect the campaign's conversation.

While Layman and Ryan waited out the results, both said they believed the county would be well served no matter who the ultimate winner is.

"Either way this goes, I'd like to thank Jill and Dale for conducting such positive campaigns," Layman said at about 11 p.m. "None of us disparaged our fellow candidates."

With Ryan the apparent winner, she also praised the other candidates in the race.

Turning to her own campaign, Ryan said "It's been an amazing journey.

"I've really appreciated campaigning with Jeff and Dale," Ryan added. "We've had good conversations about the future of the county, I've gotten to meet a lot of great people."

Ryan said her task now is learning more about the job she earned Tuesday.

"I want to start talking and meeting with people, and to continue the learning process until the time I'm sworn in," she said.

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The VailDaily Updated Nov 7, 2012 02:19PM Published Nov 7, 2012 02:16PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.