EAGLE COUNTY — Patricia Hammon has been in public service her entire life and says her county commissioner candidacy is the next step.
“I love Eagle County. This was the right time and place to do it,” she said.
Hammon has served 15 years on the county planning commission, nine years as chairman. She was on the original open space committee in the 1990s, after voters approved a dedicated tax to purchase and preserve open space.
She said her experience on the planning commission and other boards helped reinforce the importance of compromise, and that you get better policy when you listen.
“I’m a huge believer in compromise and negotiation. The public needs to be heard with respect in everything we do,” she said.
One of her most important goals, she said, is to increase communication between the commissioners and the public.
During those 15 years, the toughest decisions have had to do with development and balancing sustainability and the speed with which business people often want government to work.
“When you’re balancing economic expenditures and the environment, you can’t always make everyone happy,” she said.
Hammon is active in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. She served in Vietnam as a combat nurse. These days she teaches primary care and certified nurse aids at Colorado Mountain College.
In addition to her years on the planning commission, teaching nursing drove home the understanding of how desperately Eagle County needs a senior care facility. Not only do seniors have to leave the county to find qualified care, so do many of the nurses she’s training.
They leave the county to do the practicums they need to complete their degrees, and then they have to leave again to find work, she said. It’s money and manpower than should stay home, she said.
“It’ll mean 60-90 full-time jobs,” she said.
The county’s population will soon require it, she said.
“We’re expecting the number of people over the age of 60 to quadruple by 2020,” she said.
The current plan calls for the facility to be built in the Eagle Ranch area. That puts it within walking distance of several shops and other retail outlets in Eagle, and that’s an economic boost, as well.
Economy and jobs
Recreation and construction still drive the local economy, but those jobs are cyclical, and they generally don’t come with benefits. Hammon said she understands that they’ll always drive the local economy, but we’re due for some economic diversity.
“We need to bring respectful, dignified jobs to Eagle County that aren’t necessarily centered on construction and the resort industry,” she said.
Some small, clean manufacturing facilities might be in order, maybe some back office businesses from the technology or financial sectors.
“This is a fantastic place for young people to start or expand their businesses,” she said. “We need to be aggressive, working with the Chamber of Commerce, encouraging people to come set up their businesses here.”
She said she sees Edwards as a potential education mecca. Using Colorado Mountain College to attract conferences would seem to be a natural progression, she said.
“Whether it would happen during my career is up in the air. But it’s time to get a good start on it,” Hammon said.
Growing and diversifying the economy also means managing water.
“People often don’t realize the water is like gold here in the West,” she said.
She said Denver is already eyeing another diversion of Western Slope water.
“We will not only have some quantity issues, but quality as well,” Hammon said.
She classifies herself as a moderate politically and a conservative fiscally.
“I lean left in human services, and everyone knows that,” she said.
Like most of us, she and her husband considered moving, but not for long.
“I love the people, the lifestyle and the culture. We wouldn’t consider leaving, and anything I can do to make life better for the people is what I will try to do.”