Commissioner candidates joust at forum in Edwards | VailDaily.com

Commissioner candidates joust at forum in Edwards

Eagle County Treasurer candidates Teak Simonton, left, and Mari Renzelman discuss topics during the Edwards Metropolitan District candidate forum Monday in Edwards. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Editor's note: This article features the Board of Commissioners portion of Monday's forum. We'll bring you the county treasurer and district attorney forums Wednesday.

EDWARDS — Housing and jobs topped the issues in Monday's county commissioner candidate forum.

Michael Dunahay is challenging incumbent Jill Ryan in their District 1 race — the eastern end of the Eagle River Valley.

Incumbent Kathy Chandler-Henry is facing challenger Rick Beveridge for the District 2 seat, Edwards through Eagle.

Dunahay vs. Ryan

Republican Dunahay, born and raised in Colorado, has lived in Eagle County and owned property here for decades. He said he has built a multi-million dollar businesses, including development of affordable housing and rental properties.

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Ryan, a Democrat, said housing is a workforce issue and is a matter of maintaining the community fabric.

"We're losing the young people in this county. … They cannot afford to live here and around age 32 they are leaving," Ryan said. "Businesses want to expand but cannot, because they cannot find workforce housing."

The average home price is up 35 percent since 2012, while wages are up 4 percent, Ryan said.

"We need a large and sustained response to this," Ryan said.

Dunahay said he supports the housing tax in particular tax because it's necessary, although he's against tax increases in general.

But with the 4,450 housing units that studies say Eagle County needs, Dunahay said he will work to reduce that number, and also reduce some of the county's regulations that stand in the way.

Dunahay said he built a portfolio of residential real estate all over the country.

"I really bonded with my tenants, so affordable housing is dear to my heart," Dunahay said.

Dunahay mentioned the spending deficits the commissioners have run up the past few years, and said a tighter fiscal grip is called for.

"I expect a downturn during the first term of the next board of county commissioners," Dunahay said.

Ryan countered that the county has $26 million fund balance. She said the current board added to that total.

"We don't want to hoard public money," she said.

The commissioners are targeting projects they think the county needs, such as roads, early childhood, and funding some partners who are going through some tough economic times.

Chandler-Henry vs. Beveridge

Chandler-Henry is an Eagle County native. Along with other careers and business, she launched Black Diamond Research, specializing in business development. She says she's now "a full-time commissioner."

"I love it here. I get up every day and I can't believe I get to live and work here," Chandler-Henry said.

She listed the 60 new jobs created at the Castle Peak Senior Care Center, a variety of affordable housing plans, solar energy, and linking water planning to land planning among the current board's accomplishments.

Beveridge has lived in the valley for 30 years. He chaired the board that runs the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo and brought professional rodeo to Eagle County. He worked with the Vail Valley Foundation, the Jimmie Heuga Center, and now owns his own real estate company.

Beveridge said he spearheaded WECMRD's $12 million bond issue that resulted in Freedom Park, the Gypsum Recreation Center, the Eagle pool and ice rink and other recreation facilities.

Beveridge said he was a partner in a 72-unit affordable housing project in Gypsum.

"I have actually built affordable housing, and I'm the only county commissioner candidate for District 2 who has," Beveridge said.

When the economy cratered in 2008, Eagle County lost 6,000 constructions jobs. Chandler-Henry and Beveridge were asked if it was the county's role to help bring construction workers back.

"The county can be part of it, but I'm not sure it's the county's total responsibility. The best thing the county can do is to open the doors for development that help create construction jobs. Those jobs are vital to our economy," Beveridge said.

Chandler-Henry pointed out that those 6,000 construction jobs were the kinds of "good paying middle class jobs," the county is trying to create.

She said it's the county's job to build infrastructure and get out of their way.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.