Rowland offers experience as resource for officials
Former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland was brand new to the job when she was tasked with voting on whether hydraulic fracturing should be allowed in Palisade’s watershed.
Without much prior knowledge of natural gas drilling, she faced a steep learning curve before she could make any kind of informed decision.
Rowland, who would serve eight years as commissioner until she was term-limited last year, considered these kinds of obstacles that all local government officials face while launching a new program called the Center for Local Government.
The organization, which works under the umbrella of the Redifer Institute at Colorado Mesa University, takes a multi-faceted approach in acting as a problem-solving resource for local governments.
“I had the idea based on my experience and how hard it is to sometimes find answers, how isolated you can feel with only three commissioners,” Rowland said.
Rowland is the research coordinator for the group, working on contract for the university. The effort is funded by grants, scholarships and user fees.
Last week, the Center for Local Government hosted an energy symposium at CMU. The two-day event attracted government officials from across Colorado who represent residents on local, regional and statewide levels. Topics included a primer in natural gas extraction, the state’s role in regulating oil and gas development and a hands-on demonstration of fracking equipment at Halliburton’s offices.
“There is no opportunity for local and state elected officials to get this kind of education in a short period of time on relevant issues,” said Susan Beckman, a former 12-year commissioner with Arapahoe County.
Beckman said she appreciated learning all about energy development in one setting, a resource that would have been priceless when she was new to being a county commissioner.
“If we could have come to a symposium like this, we would have been so far ahead,” she said. “I think it should be mandatory. If elected officials are educated on issues, they make better decisions for the people.”
Upcoming events with the Center for Local Government include webinars on how to apply Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Governor’s Blueprint plan to help cities nab economic development opportunities and creating economic development opportunities in cities of various sizes.
Other aims of the center are to provide problem-solving solutions for government officials through databases or to refer officials to experts who can answer questions. The group also can provide governments with technical assistance by analyzing business and economic impact assessments, tax and budget analysis and other kinds of evaluations.
For more information on the center, search for the Redifer Institute on CMU’s website at http://www.coloradomesa.edu.