Chamber endorses Beckstein, Coons, Kenyon, Susuras for council

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday endorsed for the Grand Junction City Council two incumbents and two challengers who have served on one of the chamber’s committees.

The chamber’s board of directors endorsed District D Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein over challenger Reford Theobold and District E Councilwoman Teresa Coons, who is running for a second term unopposed. It also endorsed Tom Kenyon over Ken Sublett for the District A seat and Sam Susuras over Roland Cole, and Bill Pitts for the at-large seat.

“The major filter that the chamber board uses is the question of who will do the best job of representing businesses,” Chamber President Diane Schwenke said.

In making its decision, she said the board considered feedback from chamber members, rankings on candidates’ performance during a chamber forum earlier this month and recommendations from a candidate endorsement committee that interviewed each candidate.

The board also took into account voting records, public-service experience and the candidates’ philosophies in decision-making and toward the business community.

Schwenke said the chamber endorsed Beckstein and Coons because they have aligned with the chamber on key issues in the past, including opposing the city taking over ambulance service from the private sector a few years ago, supporting Mesa State College and approving industrial zoning for Brady Trucking along the Colorado River.

Schwenke said Beckstein received the nod over Theobold, who served on the council from 1985 to 2003, because of her involvement in ongoing issues. With Theobold, she said, the board took a “been there, done that” approach.

“He had served the community, served the community well and served the community already for a lengthy period of time,” Schwenke said. “Bonnie was eligible for another four-year term.

Her experience on the council was more recent.”

Beckstein said she believes she was endorsed because she has supported healthy growth in the community and tried to diversify the types of businesses operating here.

“I hope I live up to their expectations of continuing forward to promote the kind of business in the community that will help keep the economy stable and employment stable, which will benefit everybody,” she said.

Theobold criticized the chamber for expecting candidates to support its agenda and take a leadership role on behalf of the chamber. He said he will support what is best for all of Grand Junction, not just one organization.

“I haven’t always agreed with the Grand Junction Chamber, and they have apparently chosen to endorse someone who will promote their agenda,” he said.

In the two races that don’t feature an incumbent, Schwenke said the fact that the chamber has had an opportunity to observe the work of Kenyon and Susuras — they both have served on the Governmental Affairs Committee — played a factor. She noted, though, that Pitts has been a long-time chamber volunteer.

Kenyon said he was “gratified” to receive the chamber’s endorsement.

Sublett couldn’t be reached for comment.

In the at-large race, Susuras attributed his endorsement to his career in the banking industry and his work with the Colorado Office of Economic Development.

Cole said he was told his support of the city’s in-progress comprehensive plan “raised a red flag for some board members.”

Pitts, who’s been a member of the chamber for more than 40 years, said he wasn’t surprised that Susuras was endorsed. He noted that Susuras’ wife, Lois Dunn, serves on the chamber’s board of directors.

“Get real,” he said. “I’m just saying it like it is.”


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