First Democrat enters Mesa County commissioner race
After watching voters in the northeastern Illinois community he grew up in reject a tax increase three times to pay for a new high school, Dave Edwards decided to take action.
The editor of the school newspaper and a member of the student council, he and other students banded together and begged the school board to allow them to explore less costly ways to build a new school. With the help of his grandfather, who worked in the construction industry, Edwards and the other students found a design that translated into an $850,000 construction cost — far cheaper than the $5 million to $7 million projects initially pitched to citizens. Voters approved the tax measure for the lesser amount.
That was in the late 1960s, and the school is still being used, according to Edwards. Forty-five years later, Edwards wants to bring that problem-solving approach to the Mesa County Commission.
The Palisade town trustee is seeking the District 3 seat being vacated by term-limited Commissioner Janet Rowland, joining Republican candidates Paul Nelson, Rose Pugliese and Woody Walcher. The 62-year-old is the first Democrat to enter either of the two commissioner races.
“Mesa County needs to look for cost-effective solutions to its problems,” said Edwards, who said he decided to run for commissioner because he believes he’s helped effectively run the town of Palisade and is good at sorting through ideas.
Edwards, who moved to Palisade four years ago and is halfway through a four-year term on the Town Board, said he has a track record of solving problems with less money.
As evidence, he pointed to the fact that Palisade recently decided to ditch an $8.5 million project to build a new sewer line to Clifton in favor of a $1.25 million effort to upgrade its existing sewer lagoon system. The lower-cost alternative still allows the town to meet a federal mandate to reduce the amount of ammonia it releases into the Colorado River and avoid making payments on a $4 million loan. Instead, Edwards noted, the town can begin setting aside that money to build a new sewer plant in 10 years.
Edwards said he doesn’t have an answer for every issue facing the county, including how to stunt a stubbornly high foreclosure rate created by the economic recession. And he doesn’t believe it’s the county’s job to spend tax money to find a solution. But he thinks the county should help lead the way.
“We need to start looking at some way to deal with that, and it can’t be with the market the way it’s currently structured,” he said.
Edwards said he realizes he faces a challenge winning election in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one. But he said he clings to the ideas championed by Republicans of fiscal conservatism, of reluctancy to raise taxes or go into debt.
And, he said, “I’m credible. I’m intelligent. I’m stubborn.”
Edwards currently is unemployed. He is a certified public accountant, having worked most recently for Rocky Mountain Health Plans, and holds two law degrees.