Summit County Commissioners, District 2: Bill Wallace hoping history repeats itself
September 15, 2016
Editor's note: This is the second installment in a five-part series on candidates entered in two Summit County commissioner races. Look for additional installments in each of the next four Friday editions of the Summit Daily.
A firmly rooted foot in the past and mind for new ideas in the future is the takeaway Bill Wallace hopes voters will have about him as they fill out their ballots.
The longtime Frisco resident, who is currently the county treasurer and public trustee, is seeking his old commissioner position this November. He hopes to unseat incumbent Thomas Davidson, a Democrat, for the District 2 office, while also keeping fellow independent Jonathan Lerner at bay. Wallace points to his track record in the community as one of his greatest assets.
"I built a cabin for my folks and took a bath in the Blue River at the end of the day," Wallace recalled. "Back in 1971, they called it mud season because the roads were mud. I have not only seen, but I've lived the growth of the county. People I talk to want this community to not become a county for the rich and the famous, for the elite. They want the county to be a community, and my experience in the county has been working on keeping it that way."
Wallace, 69, first took office as commissioner in 1997 and touts a number of achievements during his decade-long tenure. Among them are helping to establish the Summit Combined Housing Authority in the early-2000s, green-lighting the plan to build St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, approving one of the state's first smoking bans and offering domestic partnerships for county personnel, in addition to aiding in the creation of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District in 2005.
"The whole gist was, 'Our forest was being loved to death, Washington (D.C.) doesn't have enough money, what can we do as a community to make things work?'" Wallace said. "My passion is finding solutions to make things work for the citizens of Summit County. I believe that's what I can bring to the table."
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Since 2007 and now into his final term as treasurer, Wallace said he's been fiscally conservative, saving the county several hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years by increasing efficiency and eliminating some positions in the office, while also bringing several tax-payment processes in-house. He joked that if re-elected as commissioner, he could just carry an old nameplate for the position that sits in his office upstairs at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge to save the county even more money.
Wallace has been elected as a Democrat each time he's run for office. He acknowledged that he leans left on many issues, but also that he's a moderate and no longer felt represented by the county's liberal party. That, and he wanted to give the general electorate the right to choose their next commissioner, rather than running against Davidson in the primary, which sees a much smaller turnout.
He complimented Commissioner Dan Gibbs on his creative work to acquire the Lake Hill property from the U.S. Forest Service for future workforce housing, as well as for his efforts down at the Capitol in trying to find answers for why health-insurance rates are so high in the county. But, Wallace wondered what other unconventional thinking is presently happening on the board of county commissioners.
"What type of innovative things have happened in the last 10 years?" he asked. "That would be my question. I think with housing, we really need to look outside the box more. Our campgrounds are empty in the winter. What would it take to allow people to use those campgrounds in the wintertime for temporary housing?"
The former Army paratrooper stationed in Alaska during the Vietnam War said charging people a fee to park their RVs on underutilized county-owned parking lots would be a strong first step as a temporary option. Wallace also said he planned to speak with the Forest Service to see what might be possible on those vacant campground sites.
The issues of health care, including mental-health related deficiencies, childcare and regional transportation, are the others Wallace would hope to address should he retake office. He said he'd like to explore the idea of a tax charged to out-of-town visitors on ski lift tickets and year-round rental equipment given the burgeoning Front Range population. Those funds would then go into a pot to help subsidize health-insurance premiums for the local workforce, as well as other designated county needs. Federal funding for a rail system through the mountains, as well as through other portions of Colorado, is a project Wallace said he'd also push for at the state level.
Ultimately, he desires a county board that is nonpartisan, especially because no national political agendas are particularly relevant at the local, county level. That's more in line, he said, with the citizens of the community.
"As an unaffiliated independent," he noted with a smile, "I'm nonpartisan."
Before ever running for public office, Wallace taught math at Summit High School for 23 years. It's what brought the New Jersey native and University of Denver grad to the county as a resident some 42 years ago in the first place, and he views solving many of its challenges as not totally unlike that of another equation.
"I was trying to get students who hated math to like math," he recalled, "and get students who liked math to love math and to move forward. As county commissioner it was the same type of thing — working with the community, listening to the community, trying to really hear what the community wants.
"This is my community, I love it," Wallace added. "And I want to see it continue to progress and be a place where people really want to call home, like I call it home."
To learn more about Bill Wallace, visit his campaign website at http://www.electbillwallace.com.
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