Democrat and oil and gas activist Leslie Robinson said Thursday she is running for the Garfield County commission seat held for 12 years by Republican Mike Samson.
Both Robinson and Samson are Rifle residents. Samson represents District 3, the western part of the county, but commissioners are elected by voters countywide.
Robinson is the only Democrat vying to replace Samson.
Both Samson and fellow Republican and longtime commissioner John Martin are running for re-election.
Robinson, 68, is chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, which is involved with oil and gas matters in the county and beyond. She said oil and gas “absolutely” will be part of her campaign.
“It’s an issue I’ve been working on for over 10 years,” she said.
She said she’s been involved with energy issues more broadly since the oil-shale era. Robinson was in Rifle when that industry went bust starting in 1982.
Robinson currently is involved with efforts by state regulators to rewrite rules governing oil and gas development after last year’s Senate Bill 181 became law. Among other things, that law creates new regulatory authority for local government when it comes to oil and gas development, something that will be detailed in new rules.
“As county commissioner I would really look forward to that discussion about how to apply those (Senate Bill) 181 regulations to Garfield County,” Robinson said.
Samson, Martin and fellow Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, also a Republican, are strong supporters of the oil and gas industry, which has generated substantial tax revenues in the county over the years along with boosting the region’s economy. The county has opposed regulatory proposals that commissioners consider excessive and an unnecessary financial burden for energy companies. Commissioners have spent tax money on things such as consultants as part of the county’s work advocating on regulatory positions.
Robinson said in an interview, “I don’t think that people’s health and safety should be sacrificed for any industry’s bottom line. That’s what I’ve been fighting for all this years, is that citizens’ health means just as much if not more.”
She added in a news release, “I am especially concerned that the commissioners have spent millions of dollars fighting against new air quality rules and proposed state health and safety guidelines, and have supported weakening environmental regulations on public lands. I believe this is contrary to what most (Garfield County) residents want. There’s better use for these funds.”
Samson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Robinson wants to see the county diversify its economy through increased emphasis on things such as tourism, possibly the hemp industry, and solar power.
Robinson worked decades ago for newspaper startups in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, was executive director of United Way of Garfield County and has worked in retail management. She ran unsuccessfully for Garfield commissioner in 1996.
She says the three incumbent commissioners combined have served for nearly 50 years and a fresh approach is needed.
“Garfield County constituents will be well served by having a woman and a Democrat on the board,” Robinson said. “It’s time for better balance and perspectives as we face the challenges of a post-COVID society.”
Democrat Katrina Byars, a former trustee for the town of Carbondale, also is running for Garfield commissioner, seeking to unseat Martin.