Candidates, interested citizens discuss offices, issues

An informal setting at The Barista housed a formally timed presentation by each candidate for County Clerk (Glenna Potts and Lyn Scott) and County Commissioner (John Hostetler and Cody Ridennoure). All candidates were allowed 5 minutes initial presentation to tell about themselves, why they are running for the office, and what their three top concerns are. After questions, they would be allowed two minutes to wrap up. Conversation Leader Lynn Horner chose Gary Cranson to be timer.

County Clerk Candidate Glenna Potts went first, explaining leaving her position in order to campaign and how the clerk’s office works, the training and cross-training involved to keep the office running smoothly, particularly after the new auto registration procedure was initiated. After a five-day backup for installing, there was a lot of business to take care of. Also, she suggested a possible work-study intern from the college to help cover when someone is on vacation.

County Clerk Candidate Lyn Scott introduced herself and described the clerk’s office as well trained and coordinated, although a little short-staffed at the present time. She was asked about how she likes the mail-in ballots, she said people are more likely to vote if they have the time to look over the ballot and can drop them off at the drive-up box or mail them.

There is one hang up, on which both candidates agreed. About thirty percent of the ballots come back right after they go out - then there is a slack period during which people apparently forget about them. Just before the deadline, they realize they don’t know what they did with their ballot. At this point, they go down to the clerk’s office and ask for another one. So, the clerk’s office now has a solution - a voting machine right in the office. You can vote right there, get a receipt so you can review your ballot, and shazam! you’ve voted.

Both candidates have a lot of experience, Potts 30 years and Scott 19 years. They stressed that each person has a specialty, besides working the front desk, but they can all work each other’s position.

Cody Ridennoure went first for the commissioner candidates. His family were pioneers, farmers and ranchers, and still have a ranch south of town. He feels vitally connected with the valley and what happens to it. His main concern is water. He doesn’t want to see any more leaving the valley, although he is in favor of a program like the Super Ditch, where a farmer can lease out a portion of his water rights temporarily on a rotating basis. He thinks long-term leases are bad for the land. He is for the fresh water conduit from the Pueblo Reservoir so that the valley may have clean drinking water and not have so much expensive treatment in order to get to even minimum standards. “Without water, there is no valley,” said Ridennoure.

His other main concern is opioids and black tar heroin. Otero County is first or second on the list of highest number of overdose deaths. The police and the sheriff’s office have both been equipped with spray antidotes by the state.

John Hostetler, the other candidate for county commissioner, strongly agrees with Ridennoure on the water issues. He has a solution for flooding problems. Dredge the river bottom from the headgates to John Martin Dam. “Clean it out,” he said, “If the river bottom is this high (hand motion) and North La Junta is this high (lower with other hand) - where do you think the water is going?” His reason for running for office is to give back to the county that has been so good to him.

Hostetler was also concerned with the drug problem. He considers marijuana part of the problem, and is against legalization. On the other hand, although Ridennoure does not like marijuana either, he considers it less a problem than the opioids and heroin. “If people come up with a solution they want to talk about, I’ll talk with them.”

Ed Vela asked about the overcrowding problem at the county jail, necessitating renting room from the Bent County Jail. “That’s not the only jail we deal with,” said Hostetler. Having to farm out prisoners and escort them back and forth to jail is a big expense. A study is now under way to seek a balance between the courts and jail we need and what we can afford. The candidates were in agreement on seeking a solution to this problem.

Vela said,”There’s a movement to ease off on jail time for drug abusers.” Hostetler said, “Treatment and guidance is the way - less expensive, too.” Ridennoure brought up the practice of weaning the druggies off with regulated doses. “We have a good facility here,” he said, referring to Resada.

Julie Worley asked their position on hemp as a help to our economic situation. “Are you in with the idea of hemp to be used for economic development?” It seems the fiber is the problem. There is a use for the oil and the seeds, but the only processing plants for fiber are one in North Carolina and one in Canada. “If we could process the fiber here,” said Ridennoure, “we could invite a lot of folks who would use the fiber here, too.”

Horner backed them up, “The further we are along toward that goal we are, the better.” There was much agreement on the good that bringing new jobs to the area would do. Vela agreed, “Hemp would bring a lot of jobs. The fiber is here. Let’s bring the business to the fiber.” Someone suggested a joint effort by the city and the county.

All in all, there was more agreement than disagreement between the candidates for county commissioners and county clerks. All were eager to discuss the issues with the audience.

Commissioner Keith Goodwin gave a brief presentation on ballot questions: broadband authorization, term limiting the district attorney to three terms, taking away term limits for district attorney, and other issues, at the conclusion of the meeting.