Mesa County Commission hopefuls focus on economy at chamber forum
Boosting the local economy, getting government out of the way of business and creating new jobs was the central theme at a debate among Mesa County Commission candidates on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, five candidates for two open seats on the county board talked about what they believed the role the county could play in improving the economy.
“It’s not for government to stimulate the economy, but what we can do is stay out of the way of business,” said Rose Pugliese, the Republican candidate running for District 3.
“I couldn’t disagree more profoundly with what Rose just said,” countered David Edwards, the Democrat running against her. “It’s very much the role of government to encourage the growth of our economy.”
Saying Mesa County is “basically a third-world country” because its economy is based on energy production and tourism, Edwards said the county could help stimulate more manufacturing jobs, particularly in plastics.
He said plans to triple the size of a natural gas plant in Parachute could help generate plastics manufacturing in the county and create thousands of new jobs in the region.
Those two, along with the District 1 candidates — Republican John Justman and unaffiliated candidates Jana Gerow and John Leane — talked about their vision for what can be done to help the economy.
“I think the fastest way to move the needle in Mesa County is to significantly increase tourism,” Leane said. “I would propose a cooperative arrangement with the city of Grand Junction Visitor’s Convention Bureau and take what we have now ... and really elevate it significantly.”
Gerow said she has a long history working in small and large businesses and knows well what they need to help them do well so they can hire more workers.
Being on the commission “is like being a CEO for a major corporation,” she said. “There’s a $155 million budget, 900 employees in 23 departments. That is a position that takes someone who has worked on budgets (and) worked on management.”
Justman said government can’t “on its own” create jobs.
“I’m not going to go for some Mesa County stimulus plan,” he said. “Colorado Mesa University, I think they are a key to helping us to help our economy go, and as long as our federal government has this overreaching, overbearing effect on all of us, it hurts the whole economy.”
Commissioners run in one of the three county districts but are elected countywide.