Vail Daily editorial: Chandler-Henry, Ryan best choices
Voters this fall face an unfortunate situation in the races for Eagle County commissioner: The two best candidates are running against each other.
Those candidates are both running in Commissioner District 2, which covers, roughly, Eagle and the middle part of the Vail Valley. In that race, Republican Rick Beveridge is seeking to unseat incumbent Kathy Chandler-Henry, a Democrat.
Beveridge has the kind of resume you want to see in someone running for county commissioner. He’s been an elected official — on the board of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District. In his 30-ish years in the valley, Beveridge has worked jobs from one end of the valley to the other. He’s now a successful business owner, and is the only commissioner candidate who has actually developed affordable housing locally.
In just about any other race, Beveridge would be an easy choice for an endorsement. But he has the bad fortune to be facing one of the best-qualified incumbents to ever hold a commissioner’s seat who has also been quite effective in her role.
Chandler-Henry has also run a successful business and raised a family in the valley, and has served on volunteer boards and commissions too numerous to mention.
Since being appointed to her post in 2013, Chandler-Henry has served the county well — and won an election in 2014 allowing her to serve out the term of former Commissioner Jon Stavney.
Chandler-Henry is well-educated on issues from streets to water law, works hard and is a dedicated representative for county voters.
While commissioners are elected by all county voters, they represent geographic districts. That’s too bad, because a board with both Beveridge and Chandler-Henry as members would put the county in very good hands.
Which leads us to District 1, and a less-clear choice. In that district, which covers parts of Edwards and includes Vail, Avon, Minturn and Red Cliff, incumbent Democrat Jill Ryan is being challenged by Republican Michael Dunahay.
Those two candidates provide perhaps the sharpest contrast in terms of job experience.
Ryan has spent most of her professional life in the public sector, including her elected position.
Dunahay, a retired business owner, has made his lack of government experience one of his main campaign themes.
Ryan works hard at her job, but her recent push to find nearly $2 million per year in the county budget for early-childhood programs seems ill-timed, at best.
The county’s revenues still haven’t fully recovered from the drop caused by the national economic slump that began here in earnest in late 2008. Starting in late 2009, the county didn’t replace, arranged retirement settlements with or simply laid off dozens of employees. Staffing levels have yet to recover.
While the county has millions in the bank right now, what droughts and economic setbacks should teach us is that in a resort area, it’s always wise to have money in the bank beyond what the state mandates.
Finding almost $2 million per year from existing sources is unwise. If the county wants to launch a new bureaucracy, then the voters should approve sufficient new tax revenues to make that happen.
But Dunahay’s naivete about government has led to often-simplistic potential answers to tough questions. He’s sincere when he talks about quick solutions to lingering problems. On the other hand, if creating long-term solutions to housing and other county problems was easy, it would have been done by now.
With all that in mind, we believe Ryan’s experience and her understanding of how county government works give her a slight edge in this race.