McQueeney says she has a countywide vision
Candidate Jeanne McQueeney is walking through another neighborhood, knocking on another door and introducing herself to voters. She’s reinforcing what she has always known — all politics are not only local, but individual.
“All politics are local and their part of the valley is what most people are most concerned about,” McQueeney said.
McQueeney is the school board president and has been for the past few years. It has given her a countywide perspective and helped her understand the differences in various areas of the valley, she said.
“We’ve had experiences up and down the valley. Being on the school board is what got me interested in this and has sharpened my collaboration skills,” she said.
When she asks people what they want their county government to do for them, they provide lots and lots of feedback.
“People are willing to share their ideas,” McQueeney said.
Sometimes those ideas conflict.
In Red Cliff, for example, the street lights went dark earlier this year. They only worked marginally and Red Cliff needed to cut costs, so street lights were among the sacrifices.
It’s either wonderful or terrible, depending on who’s sharing.
“Some love that there are no street lights. They can see the stars better because it’s so dark. Others say they’re afraid to go out at night because it’s so dark,” McQueeney said.
The bike paths are popular, and both pedalers and pedestrians want to see them expanded, especially in places that don’t have big shoulders along the highway. Eagle-Vail springs to mind.
One gentleman likes to stroll along the path, but he said there should be benches along the way because he’d like to sit down occasionally.
She suggests doing trails and transit together, saying it could help summer tourism.
“It’s not easy, and it’s not inexpensive, so we need to get started on it,” McQueeney said.
The school district has a bigger budget and employs almost twice as many people as the county, and that’s great experience for being a county commissioner, she said. Schools are funded by the state, and a few years ago when Colorado’s lawmakers cut $9 million from the school district’s budget, McQueeney and the rest of the school board stood in the cross-hairs through contentious public meetings, listening to concerned parents for hours while they waded through the budget line item by line item, figuring out what to cut.
“We listened to everyone’s input,” she said. “You can’t work on representation without knowing what to represent.”
It was awful, but the school board knew what their job is — to educate kids, McQueeney said.
“We continually asked ourselves, ‘How do we keep the cuts as far from the kids as we can?’” McQueeney said. “You figure out what your core value is, and that will guide you.”
Transportation is important, but when you put it up against kids in classrooms, you figure out ways to make buses last another year or two.
“The cuts we made in transportation allowed us to have five more teachers,” McQueeney said. “We had to weigh technology and smaller class sizes and more teachers.”
Every issue was hard fought and every vote was split, but when it was done it was done.
“We did not go back and revisit issues. Even though every decision was split, every decision was final,” McQueeney said. “We made the hard decisions and moved on.”
The school board doesn’t just deal with buildings and budgets.
“You’re talking about people’s children, their sun, moon and stars. You may have heard before what they’re saying, but you haven’t heard it from them and they deserve your respect and attention.”
And that, she says, is the philosophy she’ll bring to the board of county commissioners.
“It’s about having lived here 23 years. I’ve developed a vision about what I think we could be,” McQueeney said. “That vision is about Eagle County being a place where families can succeed and young people have professional opportunities they need to help them make a home here and be part of the community.”
The Vail Valley Partnership is heading the economic development plan and they’ve targeted health care and education, she said. The senior care center the county is spearheading is going to be a big part of that, but it certainly won’t provide everything. Opportunities also exist for in-home care and other ways to meet the needs of the county’s growing senior population, she said.
McQueeney also serves on the board of the Eagle River Youth Coalition and Wayfinders, a safety-net group created around kids in middle school and high school making poor choices.
She runs Early Childhood Partners, a nonprofit that helps coordinate goals, activities and resources for early childhood educators, including parents of young children.
McQueeney and her husband, Henry, have lived in the valley for 23 years. She is originally from Long Island, New York, and lived in New Mexico for six years before settling in the valley.
“I want to help make Eagle County a place where families can thrive, that our kids can come back to and enjoy the life they’ve come to love,” McQueeney said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.