Basalt Republican seeks commission seat |

Basalt Republican seeks commission seat

Scott N. Miller
NWS Bair, Michael BH 3-15

BASALT – Michael Bair feels at home in Saxy’s Cafe in downtown Basalt. He should. The old brick building was once his great-grandmother’s house.Local roots aren’t sunk much deeper than Bair’s. He’s a seventh-generation native, born in Glenwood Springs. Now, he’s trying follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.Bair, a Republican, this week declared himself a candidate for the Eagle County commissioner’s job now held by Tom Stone of Gypsum. If Bair wins, he’ll be the first Roaring Fork Valley resident elected to the office since Dale Grant held the job in the 1970s. Grant was Bair’s grandfather.

“I decided to run for county commissioner just recently,” Bair said. “It wasn’t anything I’d planned.”Bair said he made his decision after talking with people on both sides of Eagle County. Some of those people asked him to run for commissioner, and after some thought, he agreed.Bair has taken on a lot of public service jobs over the past few years. It started when he was elected to the Roaring Fork School Board in 2003. Since then, Bair has been appointed to the county’s Open Space Advisory Board. That group reviews projects that are eligible to receive funds from the county’s open space tax, then makes recommendations to the county commissioners.In November of last year, Bair was elected to a spot on the Eagle County Home Rule Charter Commission. That group is now working on a new county charter, which sets out how the county government is organized. Voters will decide this fall whether or not to accept that document.Seeking a voiceFor Bair and other Roaring Fork Valley residents, the point of drafting a new county charter is to somehow guarantee that part of the county a voice in local government. If voters agree to create a five-member board of commissioners, it’s likely one of those representatives would be from the Basalt – El Jebel area.”We do have a commissioner representing us,” Bair said. “And they do consider us, but we’re not in the forefront of their thinking.”Not being in the forefront of the thinking in Eagle may be why much of the county’s heavy equipment parked at El Jebel sits outside, and has for years.

“It’s just not on anybody’s mind,” he said.And, Bair said, it’s possible to make decisions for an entire district, or county, while still keeping the home folks in mind.”On the school board, decisions have to be made for the whole district,” Bair said. “But the forefront is advocating for Basalt. If you’re from a region, it’s at the forefront of your thinking.”In making decisions for the whole county, Bair said he wants more families to put down deep roots.”I want Eagle County to be a place where generations can continue to live,” he said. “We need to have a place where people can live and not just give it over to second homes.”He would also like to see at least a partial return to the way local politics worked when his grandfather was a county commissioner. “Let’s go back to running for what you stand for,” he said. “What are your values? Your core beliefs are more than Republican or Democrat.”A hard road aheadSince there’s no guarantee the home-rule process would give the Roaring Fork part of the county its own commissioner, Bair is trying to get his valley a voice the old fashioned way. “It’s going to be difficult getting elected from this side,” he said. “I will spend a lot of time on the other side to do it.”That means a lot more travel in a schedule that already has Bair on the road a lot. Those extra miles start coming this week.Bair will be at the local Republicans’ annual Lincoln Day Dinner, set for Sunday at the Vail Cascade Resort. But he’ll really be on the road the night of March 21. That’s the night of the county caucuses – neighborhood meetings at which delegates to the county assembly are selected. At the assembly, set for early April, delegates will vote to put candidates on the August primary ballot.That means Bair and fellow Republican Hugo Benson need to hit those early meetings to round up support. At the moment, Bair said he plans to attend the caucus meetings in Basalt, Eagle and Avon. Those will be quick visits.”Maybe I’ll be able to do a little more at the Lincoln Day dinner,” he said. “It’s about telling people what you believe, and also finding out what people think, and what they believe.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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