County commissioner candidate: Ryan: There’s much more to be done | VailDaily.com

County commissioner candidate: Ryan: There’s much more to be done

EAGLE — Jill Ryan said she's an Eagle County commissioner — and wants to keep being a county commissioner — because she loves sitting down with people and identifying how to make things better.

Her phone rings all the time. "Happy folks, angry folks. I get all kinds," she said.

Ryan, one of three Democrats on the three-member board of county commissioners, is running for re-election against Republican challenger Michael Dunahay.

She landed in Eagle County 12 years ago to head Eagle County's human services department.

Tackling Affordability

Ryan says she's tackling the affordability issues: Housing, child care, health care — trying to make it possible to people to live here.

Recommended Stories For You

The commissioners put a tax on next month's ballot that would raise around $5.4 million to be used for workforce housing. Along with raising the money, Ryan said the commissioners might take another look at the county's housing regulations.

Ryan was one of the county commissioners who stiffened the county's housing regulations, requiring developers to provide 25 percent of a project in affordable housing. That may be revisited, Ryan said, and she'll continue to insist that affordable housing should be in the community cores.

The commissioners have been talking with developers about some of the county's "onerous" approval process and are trying to fix that, Ryan said.

They'll likely take a shot at revamping the county's land use regulations, Ryan said.

"This board values property rights. With that in mind it's a matter of maintaining the balance. Regulations are necessary to protect the public, but they should not be stifling," Ryan said.

That workforce housing program will be looked after by a board comprised of a representative from the county and each town.

It won't cost that much

Ryan and her husband live in Miller Ranch. They're the proud parents of a 4-year-old son, so she lives the county's child care challenges.

The county and the school district split the $75,000 cost of a child care study — $50,000 to the county and $25,000 to the school district. That study said it will cost $1.8 million a year to do everything the consultants said was needed to implement an early childhood program road map.

Ryan said they won't spend that much.

"I don't think it will come in at $1.8 million for early child care," she said.

For one thing, the county cannot afford that, she said.

"I'm not thrilled about using reserves on anything that requires ongoing funding," she said. "We want to identify the crisis areas in the road map, and move toward addressing those."

Beyond child care

The county has priorities beyond child care, she said.

Some of the county's reserve money is already earmarked for road projects.

A roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and the Edwards Spur Road is high on the Colorado Department of Transportation's list, and the county will have to get some skin in that game. Then there's a roundabout on Highway 82 through El Jebel in the Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley. CDOT's building it, but Eagle County will spend $1 million on it.

Ryan argued passionately to put a child care/early childhood tax on the November ballot. She was gracious when she lost that battle, saying the cause is bigger than one county commissioner, and leading the county toward implementing parts of its child care/early childhood road map.

Trails and maintenance

The commissioners also put a tax question on the ballot that would let the county borrow some money to finish the paved trail that runs the length of the valley from Vail Pass to the Glenwood Canyon.

If voters say no, then they'll look at grants and partnerships to help fund it, she said.

Some of that money would also go to build and maintain what are euphemistically called "soft trails," dirt mountain bike and hiking trails. Right now, those trails are maintained by volunteers.

Personnel matters

Previous boards of commissioners instituted policy governance — the idea that the county commissioners set policy and the administrators handle personnel and implementing that policy.

Ryan has been known to get involved in some county personnel matters when she says it's needed. Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu said she has not violated any county policy.

She found herself in the middle of a firestorm surrounding in the county's animal services department. That ended with former director Daniel Ettinger and two other staff members being dismissed.

Ryan said the county was partially to blame, that Ettinger did not get the training or mentoring he needed to develop his management skills.

Ettinger says he had two positive performance reviews and received a merit raise while he was running the department. He said Ryan's perspective was skewed when he became the target of smear campaign. That ended with his dismissal.

Ryan disagrees.

"We felt the animal services department fell short. It was messy, but I don't have any regrets," Ryan said.

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

Meet your county commissioner candidates

Distrct 1: Republican challenger Michael Dunahay faces Democrat incumbent Jill Ryan

District 2: Democrat incumbent Kathy Chandler-Henry faces Republican challenger Rick Beveridge

Nov. 8 is election day.

It’s a mail ballot election, and ballots are mailed Oct. 17 from the Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s Office