Eagle County Commissioner: Incumbent Jeanne McQueeney’s priority is to help working families
Editor’s note: Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Oct. 9, Vail Daily to read a profile of Eagle County commissioner challenger Republican Jacqueline Cartier.
EAGLE — Jeanne McQueeney’s desire to work on behalf of Eagle County’s working families is driving her re-election bid for county commissioner.
“If we can’t take care of our families, it changes who we are as a community,” McQueeney said.
That central desire has manifested itself in work on affordable housing, early childhood education and mental health — three of the county commissioners’ stated priorities.
“I think we are on a good path,” said McQueeney, a Democrat who was first elected to the board of commissioners in 2014. “We now have a strategic plan and our priorities are identified because if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
Surveys show it, Facebook demonstrates it and residents know it — it’s difficult to find an affordable place to live in Eagle County.
For example, the most recent Eagle County Workforce Study conducted by the Vail Valley Partnership showed that 61 percent of the employees surveyed cited finding affordable housing as a “major frustration.”
“During my first term, over 683 affordable housing units were approved for construction by the county,” McQueeney said.
McQueeney noted that the county’s housing department specifically focuses on the issue. The department manages the Lake Creek Village affordable housing rental units and the Riverview Apartments low-income rental units. Additionally, the department oversees the Golden Eagle Senior Apartments and the Seniors on Broadway rental units. The department also offers options for buyers with down payment assistance and deed-restricted housing.
But McQueeney said the commissioners are always looking for ways to do more. In August, they announced plans for a 22-unit workforce housing project adjacent to the Castle Peak Senior Care Community in the Eagle Ranch neighborhood. The $6.5 million project, which is proposed as a joint effort between Eagle County and the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority, can eventually transition into an independent living center associated with Castle Peak Senior Care Community.
Early Childhood Education
As a former teacher, executive director for Early Childhood Partners and president of the Eagle County School Board, McQueeney has been a strong advocate for the county’s efforts regarding early childhood education. She said the issue isn’t just a family challenge; it is an economic concern.
McQueeney noted that when local employees respond to surveys about the challenges they face living and working in Eagle County, their top issue is housing. The second-highest response is child care.
“If you don’t have child care, you can’t go to work,” she said. “If people can’t find child care, they leave the county. We need to make it clear to the community that this is a county issue.”
Quality early childhood education is vital for kids, McQueeney noted, and she said it pays off throughout the child’s life.
“I would like to see an early childhood system in place that assures local children have high-quality experiences,” she said.
A recently completed comprehensive study of the county’s early childhood options has provided the road map for that effort, McQueeney said.
“We know the players and the direction to go. We know the gaps,” she said.
Improving the county’s mental health care system has been another priority for the commissioners this year.
Specifically, the commissioners allocated $400,000 this year to help fund school-based mental health counselors. The county also partnered with Eagle County Paramedic Services, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the Eagle Police Department, the Avon Police Department, the Vail Police Department and SpeakUp ReachOut to launch the Hope Center Eagle River Valley. The program is an expansion of a successful effort in the Roaring Fork Valley that works with law enforcement to bring mental health services directly to patients in the community when officers respond to emergencies. The center then continues working with people after the emergency has passed, connecting them with mental health providers in the community.
“I am really proud of the collaboration and proud of our mental health efforts,” McQueeney said.
As she seeks her second term, McQueeney said the commissioners will continue their work on affordable housing, early childhood education and mental health. Transportation and health care are also priorities. And then there are land-use decisions — a central part of what a county commissioner does.
“We balance all that with how do we preserve the reason we moved here,” she said. “The natural beauty of our county is an integral part of our lives and livelihood.”
After four years of service, McQueeney said the commissioner job has offered many rewards and its fair share of challenges.
“It was a very big adjustment for me to see how slow government moves,” McQueeney said. “But if I have one thing going for me, it’s persistence.”
McQueeney said she enjoys the rigors of campaigning, going door-to-door and talking with citizens about their issues and concerns. What she hears during those conversations is a love of place. McQueeney has loved living in Eagle County for 27 years. It is where she raised her children and where she built her career. It is the place were she has chosen to give back and the place were she has battled for her causes. She said she has brought all those experiences to her work as an Eagle County commissioner.
“I love the public process. I don’t have a problem walking to a meeting when the room is full. It’s great to have people involved in the process. It just shows that people are excited about the issues,” she concluded.
To learn more about Jeanne McQueeney’s platform and background visit her campaign website at jeannemcqueeney.org.
The greater community is invited to join a Celebration of Pepi’s Life on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.