Alexander: Time to give employees a greater voice
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Claudia Alexander came to Eagle County so she could fish more and play with a new granddaughter. Now she hopes to help guide its government.
Alexander, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Sara Fisher for Eagle County Commissioner. She got the idea as a county employee, managing the Golden Eagle apartments.
“The best thing I could have done was be at the bottom of the (county’s) organization,” Alexander said. “People at the bottom have no say. They work and work, and have good ideas, and aren’t listened to.”
Alexander announced her candidacy last year. After more than three years with the county, she had to leave her job because her work conflicted with the Hatch Act, a federal law dating from the 1930s that forbids anyone who manages federal money from running for local office. Since her job involved managing two apartment complexes that receive federal funds, she chose running for commissioner over keeping her job. Since then, she’s been on the campaign trail full-time.
“I know I can do more good for the people, the seniors and employees of Eagle County by being a county commissioner,” she said.
Alexander had already had a couple of careers by the time she arrived in Eagle County in late 2005. She started in real estate, first selling homes, then managing what she calls “high-end” subdivisions.
“I did everything from selling to pricing to design,” Alexander said. “I built neighborhoods.”
That job led to a stint with a company that leases office space to clients who need space in different cities. The way Alexander explained it, members in Boston, for instance, could use space in Chicago.
That job led to another, or so Alexander thought. Lured to Florida for a job managing a cruise line, Alexander soon found she, and a number of other people, had been scammed.
Looking for work in Florida in the early ’90s was easier than it is today, but not by much.
She took a job as a receptionist at an assisted living center. She liked the people, but not the job.
“i’m just a bad receptionist,” she said. Alexander quit that job, but two weeks later got a call from management – the center’s administrator had just quit, and would she like his job. She jumped at the chance.
Her work in Florida led to similar jobs in Michigan, then Washington.
In Michigan, she managed a facility with 164 senior apartments. Later, she created a home health care company to provide medication to seniors.
“We were turning a $30,000 profit in the first year,” she said.
After the death of a dear friend, Alexander needed a change of scene, and found it at another senior care facility at Whidbey Island, Washington.
There, she got involved with the local chamber of commerce, and also in a friend’s campaign for state senator.
“I loved it there,” she said. “I still have a lot of friends there.”
In the spring of 2005, Alexander moved to Colorado to be closer to her daughter and new granddaughter.
Looking for work locally led to a couple of quick jobs before landing a job as manager of the Golden Eagle senior apartments in Eagle. That, Alexander said, is where she received a quick education on what it’s like to be a county employee.
During a renovation at Golden Eagle, Alexander put together a plan to provide seniors with a system that would provide pendants for residents. Those pendants could be used to call for help in an emergency. Alexander said the plan ended up going nowhere.
Alexander said supervisors aren’t paying enough attention to employees’ ideas, and end up “micromanaging” employees. That’s something the county commissioners need to be aware of, she said.
Asked if that wouldn’t lead to new claims that the commissioners are micromanaging the staff – a frequent complaint about past boards – Alexander said no.
“There’s a difference between micromanaging and creating cohesive teams,” she said. “I’ve managed hundreds of people. You set goals, chart a course and have everyone rowing in the same direction.”
Alexander said she’s also been disappointed at the way the commissioners treat business owners.
“Eagle River Meadows was told to re-do their plan, then the commissioners went back and wanted to talk about the old plan,” Alexander said. “What’s the matter with them? You can’t just jerk around good, honest, hard-working people that way.”
Alexander said that in this economic environment, government can’t obstruct businesses that want to expand or come to the county.
“You can’t keep costing people money like that,” she said.
The county’s current regulations will lead to a stagnant economy, Alexander said.
Alexander is also worried that the county isn’t looking at all of its options as it has cut staff over the last two budget cycles.
“To lay off another 29 people (for 2011) and not cut pay, that’s just crazy. We’ve laid off over 300 years of experience the last two years.”
All that adds up to an organization that Alexander believes doesn’t work very well.
“I want to make the county work,” Alexander said. “We have to look at the statutory requirements and have to do that work in a way there’s no waste.
“It’s about management, how everything works together” she added. “That’s what I’ve done, and where I’ve built my experience.”
Alexander knows she’s in an uphill battle to wrest the commissioner’s job from incumbent Sara Fisher, but took on the challenge anyway.
“I’m used to getting things done,” Alexander said. “When I hear ‘no’ I’m used to saying ‘wanna bet?'”