Commissioners race heats up
GYPSUM ” Hugo Benson wasn’t sure he was ready to run for Eagle County Commissioner. A friend settled the matter for him.
Benson, owner of The Old Gypsum Printer, was going to a meeting of local Republican party members with Don Olsen. Benson told Olsen he was considering running for the county commissioner’s seat now occupied by Gypsum resident Tom Stone ” who is in his last year in office due to term limits ” but said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.
“At the meeting, Don stood up and said, ‘I have an announcement. Hugo Benson’s running for county commissioner,'” Benson said. “Then everybody started clapping.”
A couple of days later, Benson filed the paperwork needed to be an official candidate.
Benson, who has been an active volunteer at the Golden Eagle Senior Center in Eagle for several years, said he’s been asked by several of seniors to run for the commissioner’s job.
Benson has never held elective office, but has been a member of the Gypsum Planning and Zoning Commission for more than a year. He’s also been active in the Eagle Lion’s Club, as well as the senior center, he said.
“There are quite a few issues with the seniors that concern me,” Benson said.
He’s especially interested in trying to get at least a small assisted-living center built in the county.
“As people stay here and get older, or their parents come to live here, we need one,” Benson said. “People don’t want to have to go to Glenwood.”
While assisted living is a hot topic with local seniors, the cost of those centers has been a stumbling block to building one. Benson said the answer is to start small.
“We’re not ready for a billion-dollar complex,” he said. “I’m in favor of looking at just 10 to 15 beds to start. It’s possible the hospitals could help that happen.”
Benson is now 74, but said he’s not close to ready for retirement.
“I started this business when I was 71,” he said.
Benson’s wife, Jackie, said her husband is like a lot of valley residents.
“There are a lot of people who are active and working in their 70s,” she said. “There are people here skiing at 90.”
Benson came to Eagle County in the early 1990s to work for a local print shop. When that business closed, Benson started his own. He has lived in Gypsum for the last 14 years.
Benson said his time on the Gypsum Planning Commission has given him a taste of land use regulations and planning, and the arguments that development plans can create.
“What I’ve seen is that people who want to build feel they’ve got a right to build, and people who want to slow things down see it differently,” Benson said. “I want to look at every situation one at a time and ask if it will be a benefit or a burden to the community.”
Benson said he’s not sure how many people will eventually call Eagle County home, but said he expects growth to continue.
“I think we’ll see the county double in the next 10 years or so,” he said. “We’ve got room for that, but above that, I don’t know.”
Benson knows the campaign over the next nine months could be a bumpy.
“You can’t please everybody,” he said. “If I lose this election, though, I’ll feel that the people have voted, and respect that.”
Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624 or at firstname.lastname@example.org