Paige Blankenbuehler
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October 15, 2012
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Summit County commissioner race: Karn Stiegelmeier seeks second term

A sharp learning curve for her position and a successful first term, Karn Stiegelmeier says it's in the best interest of the residents of Summit County to keep her in office this election season.

Stiegelmeier, the Democratic incumbent candidate for the Summit County commissioner race is squaring off against Republican Kevin Mastin as Election Day approaches Nov. 6.

"I am the incumbent with successful experience, and trusted relationships for Summit and regional collaboration," she said. "There is a sharp learning curve for this position. It is in the best interest of Summit County citizens to keep me in office after a successful first term."

Stiegelmeier has been in Summit County for 17 years and currently lives in Silverthorne with her husband, Frank, and 14-year old daughter, Kaylin. Whenever she's not committed to her duties as county commissioner, Stiegelmeier and her family enjoy hiking, floating rivers and all kinds of skiing.

Prior to becoming county commissioner in 2009, her long list of affiliations and experience urged voters to select her for the seat.

Stiegelmeier was previously the director of the Friends of the Lower Blue River, Chair of the Blue River Group of the Sierra Club, Continental Divide Land Trust board member, I-70 Mountain Corridor Collaborative Effort, the director of the Alpine Charter School and a science teacher there as well.

She has also been involved in the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, executive board, Summit Water Quality Committee, Water Quality and Quantity Board, Blue River Watershed Group Advisory Board and the economic development district council, to name a few.

Stiegelmeier also has a long history of politics in her family.

"I grew up in a politically active family. I have been involved in advocacy for environmental and social issues most of my life," she said. "My experience as director of Friends of the Lower Blue River gave me a great passion for protecting the environmental, agricultural, open space character and historical values of the Lower Blue, and enhancing emergency planning, cell service, fire response and communication. It was that position that led me to run for county commissioner four years ago."

After being in office for four years, Stiegelmeier says she is bolstering her campaign based on her successful first term.

"I am running on my record," she said. "I believe I have done great work for the people of Summit County, balancing the budget with unprecedented declines in revenue and increasing the revenue reserve to double the amount it was when I took office in '09. I am proud of the collaboration and cooperation with other entities producing excellent solutions for all citizens."

Of Stiegelmeier's numerous collaborations during her time as county commissioner, she has seen success particularly with environmental and water issues.

"The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement gives us certainty for our water future, protects streamflows, lake levels and improves our watershed with revenue for environmental enhancements," Stiegelmeier said.

As for next term, Stiegelmeier says she will continue to push zero-waste initiatives.

"The Zero Waste Task Force is a collaborative effort still in process," she said. "Collaborative solutions can take a long time, however, the end product includes buy-in from stakeholders so that it really works for our community. These kinds of solutions are the way governments should be doing business, working in the best interest of all citizens."

Running on her success, Stiegelmeier promises to continue many projects that were started during her last term.

"I have done great work for the people of Summit County, saving tax- payer money while providing services people need and leadership on issues such as water, transportation, forest health and wildfire protection," Stiegelmeier said. "I want to keep moving forward in the directions I've begun with our budget in balance after major cuts and restructuring, the county is in a sustainable position. I will continue my work protecting our natural environment, protecting West Slope water and our recreational economy, cleaning up the mining pollution of the past, prioritizing good forest health projects, increasing our energy efficiency and solar electricity, completing additional workforce-housing projects, supporting local health care options for all residents, improving cell and broadband service."

An area that Stiegelmeier and her opponent differ, is with the contentious renovation of the old CMC building for the new location of the Breckenridge library. Stiegelmeier is for the renovation while Mastin says it would be a better investment to build a new library.

"The Harris St. building is a beautiful historic icon in the center of historic Breckenridge," Stiegelmeier said. 'Working in collaboration with the town of Breckenridge, the library foundation and the heritage alliance, we can pool our resources, save taxpayer dollars and achieve multiple goals including the restoration of this historic icon, and re-locating a community center, theater and library in one location. It is a wonderful opportunity to leverage our capital funds allocated to a new library building in a way that serves the people of Summit County in multiple ways that will be a lasting Summit County legacy."

Mastin says the county will end up spending more money to renovate the old building than simply building a new one.

"The county would end up with an asset, when you build a new building you own it forever," Mastin said. "I'm all for renovating an old building but my biggest opposition to it is that the county is spending more than they budgeted. When you're in a budget crisis, that's not what they should do."

Stiegelmeier says the county is in a good position though, to maintain a balanced budget.

"I began working on the fiscal cliff of 2012 when I first took office in January 2009," she said. 'We looked at all possibilities of restructuring, including privatization, and proactive action was taken in 2009 and 2010 in preparation for the cliff of 2012. We are now leaner, greener and more efficient, and I will continue to look at ways to be more efficient. We have double the revenue reserves of 2009, giving us a cushion of flexibility going forward."

Stiegelmeier says that her success in hard economic times prevailed by looking forward.

"We are facing another property tax decline due to an estimated 5 percent drop in residential property values that will hit us in 2014. That will be offset by new construction, by new utilities and mining infrastructure, additional savings with staff realignments and with continued savings from team efforts by departments every year, Stiegelmeier added. "We are on a sustainable path forward due to looking forward in 2009 and planning many years into the future. There is a resurgence of our economy as reflected in recent building and real estate markets. Our role as county government is to provide efficient services and infrastructure so the private sector can thrive."


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 15, 2012 11:05PM Published Oct 15, 2012 11:01PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.