Eagle County residents vie for House District 56 | VailDaily.com

Eagle County residents vie for House District 56

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Christine Scanlan’s replacement could very well come from within Eagle County.

The county is home to half of the eight candidates who will be considered for the next State House District 56 Representative. The position is opening up because Scanlan, who won re-election for the seat in November, has been tapped to serve as Hickenlooper’s director of legislative affairs and strategic initiatives.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Pat Hammon, Brian Sipes and Liz Spetnagel will be among the Eagle County candidates who will field questions Sunday from the House District 56 Vacancy Committee members. The committee plans to pick Scanlan’s replacement Sunday during a meeting that starts at 8 a.m. at Frisco Town Hall.

Here, local candidates explain why they want the job.

Pat Hammon lives in Eagle and works as a nurse for Home Care and Hospice of the Valley in Edwards.

She’s a service officer for the Eagle County branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars and chairwoman for the veterans memorial committee in Edwards.

Hammon has sat on the county’s planning commission for the past 12 years, and has been working with county officials to build a retirement center with a variety of medical services.

Along with being active in local government, she puts together programs at the local schools and has worked as a wilderness outfitter for many years.

“I just feel like I have a lot to offer because of my background,” she said.

If she’s chosen for the position, Hammon would make creating more jobs a top priority. She also wants to avoid budget cuts to Medcaid and other programs that help people with their longterm health needs.

“We’d be pulling the rug out from under people who have long-term health needs at home, who would be desperate without the care they get right now,” she said.

Hammon said she would like to see more emphasis on programs at the school aimed at reducing the dropout rate.

Edwards resident Jill Hunsaker Ryan, 42, works as a public health consultant. She has held many positions within the medical profession, including manager of Eagle County’s health department. She also served as director of the state’s planning office and the state’s office of health disparities.

“I’ve seen how good policymaking can really positively impact lives and I’ve also seen the unintended consequences of bad policy making. I want to make a difference and I think state policy making is a good way to do that.”

If she is chosen for the position, Hunsaker wants to continue Scanlan’s work on the pine beetle epidemic. She wants to keep lobbying for federal funds to pay for clearing dead trees away from key areas and planting new trees.

“The threat of a wildfire is real and one of the No. 1 issues for these three counties,” she said.

Along with fighting for forest health, Hunsaker Ryan recognizes the state budget crisis will be a challenge.

“Before just cutting programs, I would really like to see if there are some efficiencies that could be created in state government,” she said.

Although money is not yet available for a mass transit system along Interstate 70, she supports moving forward with some of the steps the I-70 coalition has identified to ease congestion in the more immediate future.

Brian Sipes, 43, lives in Avon and works in town as an architect with Zehren and Associates.

He served on Avon town council for eight years and sat on the town’s planning commission for three years.

“Regardless of who wins, I would really like to see it be somebody from Eagle County,” he said. “Within Eagle County, I think my experience on Avon Town Council would be well suited to the position.”

With the state mired in a budget crisis, Sipes said there’s no money to just throw at problems.

“You’re going to have to use synergy between different ideas and solutions to make the dollar go further,” he said.

To get the economy back on track, Sipes said the state needs to continue its focus on the new energy economy.

On Interstate 70, Sipes said he would like to see the state come up with a 100-year plan instead of quick fixes. If the state moves ahead with a high speed train, he said it could do more than just transport people. There could be an opportunity for delivery companies such as UPS and FedEx to develop innovative rail cars to transport cargo as well, he said.

Eagle resident Liz Spetnagel, 43, practices traditional Chinese medicine in the area. She also serves as vice chairwoman for the Eagle County Democratic Party. Along with being involved in local politics, Spetnagel helped to found One Eagle, a business- and community-building group in Eagle.

Spetnagel said she’s always looking for opportunities to get involved in the community where she lives. If she is chosen as state representative, she wants to do a lot of outreach to educate the community on the issues.

Also, Spetnagel said she wants to continue the kind of education reforms Christine Scanlan achieved. For example, she would like to see the state expand methods of alternative education.

“I see that we have these things set up for kids once they’re at a high school level,” she said. “I would like to see what could be done with kids who are a little bit younger.”

As a health care provider who works with insurance companies every day, Spetnagel said she wants to get involved in the discussions on reforming health care.

Along with focusing on the pine beetle epidemic, she wants to identify the next big environmental threats so the state can figure out how to address them.

Other candidates for the House District 56 include Summit County residents Millie Hamner, Emily Tracy and Denise Levy. Ken Olsen, a Lake County commissioner, rounds out the field.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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