True conservatism means practical leadership

During this election campaign for county commissioner, the term “conservative” is constantly being bantered about by candidates and their supporters. One county commissioner candidate and his Denver-based column- writer supporter continue to claim he is the conservative candidate, but they do nothing to really define what is meant by the term. It is always interesting to note how Denver is always trying to tell Mesa County how to vote and think.

To me, conservatism is walking the walk in addition to talking the talk. What one espouses in public should be the same as what one practices in private. That is accepting personal responsibility.

As mayor of Fruita, I cut taxes to keep faith with the voters. When confronted with bonds from prior projects that did not have sunset provisions, I moved to reduce our mill levy, which resulted in an 11.4 percent tax reduction on families and businesses in Fruita. I don’t just talk about reducing the cost of government, I do it.

During my two terms as mayor, Fruita demonstrated prudent public conservatism when, even after being forced by unfunded federal mandates to build a new sewer plant, the 2012 budget provided a 54 percent reserve or rainy day fund. This is a prime example of fiscal responsibility.

When constituents, District 51 and hospital leaders identified the need for improved medical facilities and better availability of health services for children and seniors, we worked together to build the new Family Health West Hospital and open the Mesa County Community Services West Office in Fruita. This brought all county health and human services to Fruita and the Lower Valley.

We listened to teachers, parents and kids asking for a better library. Cooperation with the library district resulted in a state-of-the-art library that is being featured, this month, in the national library association publication.

In my view, leadership entails actually listening to constituents to understand what they expect from government and working within a conservative budget to set priorities and carry out the things we can afford. To that end, we rolled up our sleeves and found a way to build a premier community center serving the needs of seniors, children and families.

My experience dictates that voters are smart and they can be trusted with making big decisions when they have all of the facts. Setting strategic goals and developing strategies to accomplish them is actually possible when we work together. I believe we have demonstrated it is possible to develop a trusting relationship between citizens and elected officials.

True conservatism is not stingy and mean-spirited. It does, however, mean adhering to basic principles of honesty and fairness and it does mean living up to one’s promises.

Finally, true conservatism relates to conserving our natural resources. When Fruita was confronted with repairing a major reservoir or losing it, I initiated an agreement with the Colorado National Guard to use the summer training exercises for their engineering company to fully rebuild the reservoir. That resulted in saving a 115-year-old historic water right while the National Guard solders received valuable training in performing under exact technical requirements required by the state water engineer.

This is a prime example of promoting fiscal responsibility and increased governmental efficiency through the cooperation of the federal government and a local municipality. This is true, practical conservatism.

If Mesa County is to remain “open for business,” we need experienced, proven leadership. With me, what you see is what your get: proven public leadership, a genuine concern for people and business, balanced budgets and creative problem solving with a commitment to make government work for you.

Ken Henry is facing John Justman in the Republican primary election for the Mesa County Commissioner District 1 seat. He wrote this in response to Josh Penry’s column last Friday in support of Justman.


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