Layman: ‘Heart’ for community service
Editor’s note: Republican candidates Jeff Layman and Johnie Rosenfeld face each other in the June 26 primary. Look for the profile story on Rosenfeld in tomorrow’s Vail Daily.
EAGLE COUNTY – Jeff Layman has spent just about all of his adult life in public service in Eagle County. Now he hopes voters will send him to an Eagle County commissioner’s seat.
Layman, a Republican, is running for the District 1 commissioner seat now held by Democrat Peter Runyon, who is term-limited. Democrat Jill Ryan is also seeking the seat, but so is Minturn Republican Johnie Rosenfeld. That means Layman and Rosenfeld will first face off in the state’s June 26 party primary.
Layman has been a cop in the valley for more than 30 years, nearly 20 of which were spent with the Vail Police Department.
“I did virtually everything in that department,” Layman said. His duties in Vail included patrol officer, administrator, and, on two occasions, acting chief. In that role, he supervised a project that essentially rebuilt the Vail police station.
After his time in Vail, Layman was Avon’s police chief for about seven years, and then was second-in-command at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. In 2010, Layman was hired as Eagle-Vail’s community manager.
Besides those paid jobs, Layman has also served on the boards of local nonprofits, from his own church to local Boy Scouts to the Battle Mountain High School Accountability Advisory Committee.
“I have a real heart for community and public service,” Layman said. “I want to take that 30-plus years and apply it on the county level.”
And Layman has a number of ideas that he’d like to accomplish as a commissioner. With the county looking at another serious drop in property tax revenue in 2014, Layman said a thoughtful approach will be required to match public services to available funds.
“I don’t agree with an across-the-board approach to budget cutting,” he said. “I don’t think all county departments or offices should be treated the same. If you’re going to have a back-to-basics approach, you need to fund the services people want and need.
“It’s a lot of work,” he added. “It’s harder than taking a meat cleaver to the budget. But you have to look at what’s going on in the community.”
Layman wouldn’t offer specifics on what he’d cut – he said he’d prefer to analyze the budget from the inside. But, he said, in some cases the county might be able to bring in nonprofit groups, towns and special districts to try to provide some services the county now funds itself. And, he said, it’s going to be important to draw from the wealth of expertise available in the county.
Layman said he’d seek the advice of county residents about any number of issues. Many second homeowners or people who have retired to the valley are successful in any number of ventures, and many of them are willing to volunteer their time, he said.
That advice could be most valuable for economic development, Layman said. And the county does need some kind of plan to help discover and encourage the “next big thing” in the local economy.
While Layman said there isn’t a lot the county can do to jump-start economic growth, there are some tools available.
“We need to get the international terminal at the airport done,” he said. “The return on investment could be enormous.”
The county should also be more welcoming to development proposals, he said. There aren’t many developers who want to build anything right now, he said, but the run-up to development provides work for planners, architects and others. When those professionals leave because there’s no work, that takes away people who serve on school boards and nonprofit groups, he said.
Aside from economic development, Layman said the current board has spent too much time and effort on its open-space efforts. Layman said he’s been critical of the way county funds have been spent and also tends to believe the current policy doesn’t follow the spirit of the original ballot question.
“I’d favor a ballot question in the near future that would ask voters a question, or series of questions, about what their wishes are,” he said.
While Layman said he wants to change the county’s course, he also said that won’t happen in a vacuum.
“I’m very deliberative in my process,” he said. “I want to hear all sides.”
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