EAGLE COUNTY — The Eagle County Democratic Party’s vacancy committee selected Kathy Chandler-Henry on Wednesday night to fill the open seat on the county’s board of commissioners.
The seat was vacated effective July 1 by Democrat Jon Stavney when he accepted a job as the Eagle town manager. The Eagle County Democrats’ 15-member vacancy committee voted by secret ballot Wednesday night in its third and final public meeting. Pat Hammon, the committee’s chair, said there was overwhelming support for Chandler-Henry, but the committee did not release the final vote tally.
Chandler-Henry said Thursday afternoon she’s honored to serve the county and plans to be a responsive and approachable leader.
She said she applied for the vacancy after thinking about public office for a long time.
“I’ve done a lot of work with public policy and in the public sector, and this has always been a logical next step,” Chandler-Henry said.
Chandler-Henry ended up on top because of an impressive resume and background, including a rich history with the local Democratic party, Hammon said.
“She has an amazing amount of experience working with very diverse groups, including seniors, conversation-minded people like the Watershed Council, and she has wonderful skills in communicating with people with very diverse backgrounds and interests,” Hammon said.
Chandler-Henry’s resume includes community roles such as president of the Eagle River Watershed Council, research and teaching roles at Colorado Mountain College, multiple officer and board positions with local nonprofits and consultant to the Economic Council of Eagle County, among others. She is also a small business owner of Black Diamond Research and Brush Creek Electric, Inc.
In a “whole-hearted” letter of recommendation for Chandler-Henry, long-time county resident Pam Brandmeyer, Vail’s assistant town manager, commended Chandler-Henry’s accomplishments.
“She looks to reach consensus, but she is never disingenuous about the reality of what the project is all about and what issues are to be resolved,” Brandmeyer wrote. “She is apt at understanding her role in policy-making, never directing the outcome but still pushing through to an end.”
Issues to focus on
Some of the issues Chandler-Henry plans to focus on include preserving the county’s land, water, air and quality of life.
“We must be vigilant and proactive through land use planning, following our Eagle River Watershed Plan, following the growth boundaries established in comprehensive and area plans, and supporting organizations and citizen efforts to preserve and conserve our incredible environment,” she wrote in her application to fill Stavney’s open commissioner seat.
Chandler-Henry listed her next top issues as “building a strong, driver and resilient economic base and building” and “keeping a strong social fabric in our communities.”
Chandler-Henry said she’s sensitive to those with concerns about an all-women board of commissioners — including herself and fellow Democrat Jill Ryan and Sara Fisher, who is unaffiliated but was most recently affiliated with the Democratic party — adding there are plenty of others missing from the table, too.
“There are men missing, Republicans missing, Hispanics missing, no one from the Roaring Fork Valley and no one from the eastern end of the county,” she said. “I think it’s the job of the people who are there to make sure they’re reaching out and getting all sides of the story — to make sure you’re representing everyone.”
The lack of diversity on the board is something the Eagle County Republicans aren’t too happy about. Randy Milhoan said the all-women liberal board “is a terrible idea.”
“Obviously I’m conservative and they’re liberal,” Milhoan said. “I just think they’ll tend to be very liberal like a lot of the counties (in Colorado) have become. I thought Rohn Robbins was the clear, best choice.”
Hammon said she hasn’t heard any public feedback about the all-women board. She did commend Democrat Carole Onderdonk for coming out at one of the vacancy committee meetings and mentioning the issue. Onderdonk pointed out that Boulder County has an all-women Democratic board and told the committee not to consider the potential for an all-women board as good or bad when considering candidates.
“She was very brave to do that,” Hammon said, adding that the issue hadn’t been talked about publicly before then.
With an educational background in political science and a lifetime of knowledge about Eagle County, Chandler-Henry said she knows she’s qualified for the role and will do her best.
She plans to shadow Stavney “every minute between now and July 1.”
She plans to meet with leaders from the local municipalities, too, to get a good grasp of what’s going on county-wide.
“I’m honored to do this,” Chandler-Henry said. “I was born in Eagle County, I grew up in the town of Eagle. I’m just really excited about being able to be an elected person. I encourage people to call me, text me, email me. I will be responsive.”
Chandler-Henry’s appointment runs about a year and a half until the next regular election in 2014. Because Stavney’s seat was through 2016, the seat will be up for election again in 2016.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at email@example.com.