DILLON - Summit County commissioner hopefuls from District 3 met Monday night for their first local political forum this year, facing off on topics from the approach to environmental issues to balancing the budget.
Incumbent Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, a Democrat, and GOP challenger Kevin Mastin spent an hour discussing the hot topics facing Summit County during the forum hosted by local radio station, Krystal 93.
Though the opponents agreed on some things - including their appreciation for the progress made to mitigate beetle-kill impacts and their support of a possible consolidation of local fire districts - they diverged on the big issues, particularly the management of the county government's battered budget.
Stiegelmeier continued to play up the successes of her first four years in office, which have been defined by plummeting revenues.
"I am extremely proud of all the decisions that I've made, tough decisions in a time of an unprecedented decline in revenue," Stiegelmeier said. "We now have a leaner and greener and more efficient government."
But Mastin credited the county's balanced budget to the staff, not the commissioners, and called on elected officials to make the tough decisions on bigger cuts. He said the county commissioners are not working fast enough to find a sustainable financial model for the landfill, and criticized their decision to spend nearly $2.7 million in dedicated capital expenses for a new library in Breckenridge.
"We're fortunate that we have some very good county managers ... who have been keeping an eye on the budget," Mastin said. "But as a commissioner, what we need to do is look at the large-dollar expenditures."
Stiegelmeier, who has highlighted her experience as a commissioner during the campaign, defended the board's fiscal decisions.
"We're in great shape going forward," she said.
Stiegelmeier was on the board of commissioners when they approved $4.5 million in budget cuts that included the elimination of 19 county jobs.
She also had an opportunity to confront Mastin during the forum on his criticism that she has been too focused on environmental issues during her first term.
"Kevin, you have stated that I have too much passion for the environment," Stiegelmeier said. "I do think that's our economic engine ... so my question to you is how would you perceive protecting the environment differently?"
Mastin responded with criticism for Democratic Congressman Jared Polis's Hidden Gems wilderness proposal, saying it closes the backcountry experience.
"To me, some of these environment areas go too far. I think I can take a more moderate approach to them and allow better access," Mastin said.
A recording of Monday night's forum will air on a local television station.