Summit County commissioners prioritize communication, sustainability, equity in first week on the job |

Summit County commissioners prioritize communication, sustainability, equity in first week on the job

Summit County Commissioners Josh Blanchard, middle, Tamara Pogue, middle right, and Elisabeth Lawrence, bottom, speak about priorities during a virtual town hall Friday, Jan. 15.
Screenshot from meeting

As Summit County Commissioners Josh Blanchard and Tamara Pogue emerge from their first week on the job, they’ve made it clear they want as much community engagement as possible.

On Friday, Jan. 15, Blanchard, Pogue and Elisabeth Lawrence hosted their first town hall as a board. The town hall, which will be a weekly virtual event on Fridays, served as an opportunity for people to get to know the three commissioners better and ask questions on a wide variety of topics.

The commissioners used Friday’s event as an opportunity to outline three major priorities: community outreach, sustainability and equity.

“These are big priorities even if we weren’t experiencing what we’re experiencing with COVID,” Blanchard said. “We’re trying to balance the emergency immediate needs along with these priorities.”

Blanchard added that the commissioners hope to use town hall meetings as a means of creating more community outreach. The ultimate goal is for the town halls to serve as a way to get a sense of how people are feeling in the community to help inform priorities for the board.

“In an ideal situation, we would be able to go out to community centers and have some one-on-one time or address (the community) in an actual town hall setting,” Blanchard said.

For sustainability, Blanchard said the commissioners plan to look at climate action and sustainability strategies, such as building more infrastructure for renewable energy, recycling and efficiency.

The board plans to address equity internally with the creation of an equity advisory group, bring more diversity into boards and advisory groups, and recognize organizations that are already addressing equity issues in the county.

“This is all very exploratory,” Blanchard said. “We’re only four days in the process. More details will come with how we’ll continue with these three priorities.”

While the commissioners have outlined three major goals for their time in office, the pandemic continues to be in the forefront of people’s minds. The commissioners made it clear that they intend to be advocates on the local and state levels for the county.

Much of what happens during the pandemic is dictated by state restrictions. For example, rules around gathering sizes, vaccine allocation and distribution, and capacity limits at businesses are all determined at the state level.

“For a lot of our folks in the community, it’s hard to see the way that our board fights to keep businesses open, pushes back on the state in terms of trying to keep restrictions loosened in a reasonable way,” Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said. “Those conversations are happening on an almost daily basis.”

Pogue added that the commissioners might host a future town hall on what powers the county has during the pandemic.

“One of the things that is hardest for me to figure out as a new commissioner is what is the state responsible for and where does the county have an ability to identify some new, innovative strategies or deviate from the state strategies,” Pogue said. “That’s a really difficult question.”

Lawrence added that the commissioners plan to work together to support the community and advocate for businesses.

“The work cannot just be on one person, and I feel very supported by Josh and Tamara going forward with this,” Lawrence said. “All of us are equally going to take on how we can work with the community.”

Welcome to our weekly virtual Town Hall with our Board of County Commissioners

Posted by Summit County, Colorado onFriday, January 15, 2021

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