Mesa County Commission District 3: Edwards speaks mind about museum, fairgrounds

Dave Edwards moved to Mesa County in 2008, and you get the feeling his public service as trustee and mayor pro-tem of the town of Palisade is a genuine effort at making the area a better place for people of all stripes to call home.

The 63-year-old former health plan administrator and accountant is certainly accomplished: He counts bachelor’s degrees in English and history, as well as accounting. He earned a law degree, an MBA, and a postgraduate law degree in taxation and administration from universities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and spent about 20 years in fiscal administration in the health care industry.

He also taught English as a Second Language in Chicago — he calls that “a labor of love” — and worked as an auditing special agent with the Treasury Department in the past.

But he prefers small-town life, he says, and as soon as Colorado laws caught up with the times in terms of his lifestyle, he and his partner of 38 years settled down in rural Palisade, in August 2008.

“It’s when a lot of laws went into effect In Colorado that made it legal for a gay couple to live here,” he said. “I’ve never lived in a place where my normal activities on a daily basis were illegal.”

As the Democrat candidate for the Mesa County Commission from District 3, Edwards is hardly averse to new ideas — a fact plainly obvious in most conversations with him.

As he told the Sentinel’s editorial board, “I’m not shy of saying things you won’t like.”

Case in point: his candor about the local museum, which is partially funded by Mesa County taxpayers. Edwards earlier called on the museum to remove a historic rock carved with a swastika symbol that pre-dated the Nazis.

“When I went in there, it wasn’t just the swastika at the front door. I went through the exhibits and I thought, ‘This is fantasyland,’ ” Edwards said.

He lamented the lack of Ute and Hispanic history at the museum, the focus on saddles and shotguns, and the inclusion of Annie Oakley and Alferd Packer.

“It’s very macho, and weird, and it’s a lie. It’s not real history” he recently said. “They could use a lot of money just to redo their exhibits.”

Another idea of his that is certainly out of the box is moving the Mesa County Fairgrounds, rather than consider planned improvements to its Orchard mesa location. Edwards said the surrounding area isn’t agricultural, is “hot as hell” during the annual fair, and the fair itself could be better sited near the town of Mesa, where it could be “a source for jobs.”

Undeterred from extrapolating the idea, Edwards thinks the current fairgrounds could be great as a campus for Grand Junction High School, whose current location better suits Colorado Mesa University, in his opinion.

Prefacing his comments by calling them “just ideas,” Edwards also offered up the proposal of reversing the county administration building downtown with the The Art Center on the north side of town. He called the current county administration building “ridiculous” and “empty” and “a symbol of the arrogance of power that we don’t need.”

The old county courthouse would become a museum — “something everybody owns” — and would draw more people downtown.

“I’m basically saying, let’s rethink a lot of things,” Edwards said.

He’s for self-governance of unincorporated urban areas, fiscal conservatism in county operations, and expanding the industrial base of the county by exploiting the liquids in natural gas to draw plastics industries to the area. Development of a new materials science program at CMU is always mentioned in his many public appearances.


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